The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

5.0 6
by Tara Altebrando

An all-day scavenger hunt in the name of eternal small-town glory

With only a week until graduation, there's one last thing Mary and her friends must do together: participate in the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. And Mary is determined to win.

Mary lost her spot at Georgetown to self-professed "it" bully Jake

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An all-day scavenger hunt in the name of eternal small-town glory

With only a week until graduation, there's one last thing Mary and her friends must do together: participate in the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. And Mary is determined to win.

Mary lost her spot at Georgetown to self-professed "it" bully Jake Barbone, and she's not about to lose again. But everyone is racing for the finish line with complicated motives, and the team's all-night adventure becomes all-night drama as shifting alliances, flared tempers, and crushing crushes take over. As the items and points pile up, Mary and her team must reinvent their strategy—and themselves—in order to win.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 10 Up—At the end of every school year at Oyster Point High, some seniors participate in The Hunt, an unsanctioned scavenger hunt where teams obtain objects, solve clues, and engage in optional activities such as skinny dipping and petty theft. Mary Gilhooley and her teammates are the self-professed good kids, students who earn high grades, scholarships, and have decent family relationships. In fact, participating in The Hunt is the first time Mary has gone against parental directives. Her motivation stems from her desire to best the team headed by class bully, Jake Barbone, a star football player who has regularly targeted Mary and her friends. Tara Altebrando's story (Dutton, 2012) is often slow-paced, especially scenes that include reading through several scavenger hunt lists item-by-item. Mary's musings and her friends' dialogue provide information about several unrequited crushes and concerns about the future. The pace accelerates somewhat during the second half of the hunt, as a teammate is injured, several betrayals come to light, and pressure to win builds. Mary and her friends are likeable, nice kids and many students will relate to their place in the high school hierarchy. Ali Ahn does a good job of differentiating the characters, although the nasal, childlike voice of Mary's best friend, Patrick, is somewhat unusual. A realistic, enjoyable listen.—Rebecca James, Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, TN
Publishers Weekly
A week before graduation, seniors at Oyster Point High compete in an unauthorized scavenger hunt with the prize being custodianship of a garden yeti that they keep for a year. Mary May Gilhooley is intent on breaking out of her good-girl shackles to win, but she has to contend with friction among her teammates, self-dubbed “the Also-Rans”: Harvard-bound Patrick, who is head over heels in (unrequited) love with Mary; mysteriously sullen best friend Winter; and barely closeted Dez, who has been picked on for years by a rival team. The objects in the hunt include many straightforward items (one “al dente” strand of spaghetti, a bar of hotel soap) and others that must be puzzled out (“Shave Bob’s balls” “Shuck a Mary on the half shell”). It’s a terrific premise, and Altebrando (Dreamland Social Club) successfully sustains a sense of tension and excitement throughout. In the final pages, Mary swings a bit unbelievably between acquiescent daughter and win-at-all-costs team leader, but that doesn’t diminish the book’s smart combination of end-of-high-school poignancy and fun. Ages 14–up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
"In this highly enjoyable caper, the writing is crisp, the dialogue spot on, and the hunt entirely twenty-first century."—The Horn Book

"Funny and nostalgic, a highly contemporary riff on a timeless rite of passage."—Kirkus Reviews

VOYA - Elizabeth Norton
For Mary, the end of senior year is coming too fast. There is just one more week of school left, and one more thing that she and her friends get to do together: the unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. Mary is determined to beat Jake Barbone, the bully who has tormented her best friend, Dez, since elementary school and who stole her spot at Georgetown. For one wild afternoon and evening, Mary reinvents herself as she and her friends crisscross their small town, strategizing, finding random items, and pulling off crazy stunts in hopes of small-town glory and the honor of running the hunt for the next graduating class. Altebrando's story combines the height of high school drama with all the bittersweet emotions of graduation. Through the course of the hunt, hearts are broken, friendships are tested, and new alliances are formed. Though many of the characters are not fully developed, readers may recognize themselves in this story. Teens will relate to Mary's desire to leave her hometown and also to her uncertainty about going away to college. The scavenger hunt provides enough action to keep the pages turning as Mary and her friends form strategies and work out the clues. Profanity, underage drinking, and sexual references make this a more appropriate choice for older teens. Reviewer: Elizabeth Norton
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Mary's last hope to do something memorable in high school is to win the Oyster Point High Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. After a fiasco at prom and losing her spot at Georgetown to the football jock, she is determined to take first place. She convinces her friends to help her gain enough points to beat the other seniors. They dash around town to find all sorts of items and they puzzle out clues left through text messages. As the afternoon and evening drag on, issues under the surface come to light, and nothing will be the same. Ultimately, Mary has to decide what's more important-her friendships or winning. Quite a few flashbacks explain the events leading to the night in the book, while the issues the characters deal with fill in gaps. The protagonist is not a sympathetic character, and while the scavenger hunt will keep readers turning the pages, the story falls a little flat.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
It's the week before high school graduation, time for the annual Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. Over a long day, Mary and the three other members of her team will bond one last time, settle old scores with rival teams, and pursue the elusive prize: a giant lawn-ornament Yeti. For Mary, winning also means beating out Jake Barbone, the gay-bashing jock whom Georgetown admitted over Mary, despite her superior grades. Teammate Dez is a past Barbone victim; Winter and Patrick have agendas of their own that Mary's forced to reckon with as the day unfolds. Harvard-bound Patrick isn't satisfied with Mary's friendship--he wants more. Is Winter hiding her own romantic secrets that might interfere with Mary's scheme to secure Carson's affections? While texting, sending videos and doing online searches via smart phone (this is one high-tech hunt), not to mention searching out live goldfish and puzzling over Dixie-cup icosahedrons and origami sheep, Mary will make surprising discoveries and confront uncomfortable truths. Anxious and excited, ebullient and sorrowful, she's poised to take flight into the intoxicating world of adult freedom. But tearing around capturing fireflies and hunting out old stuffed animals brings home the bittersweet truth of what--and whom--she'll leave behind. Funny and nostalgic, a highly contemporary riff on a timeless rite of passage. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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Recorded Books, LLC
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Meet the Author

Tara Altebrando is an author of books for adults and teens, including Dreamland Social Club and The Pursuit of Happiness. She lives with her family in Queens, New York.

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