Despite its classical roots, Troy High is a fairly light-hearted, superficial reimagining of its source material. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable - it most definitely is - but readers shouldn't expect anything too heavy here. Both plot and characterisation have been adapted to suit today's YA readership, and the result is a much simpler version of the familiar story. But what Shana Norris's retelling loses in complexity, it gains in the romance between narrator Cassie and her Spartan best friend Greg. Despite being caught up in all the drama of their respective high schools' popular crowds, they're a pretty sweet pair who met at band camp and spend most of their time together playing their favourite videogame. Cassie herself is the kind of character most readers will be able to relate to. She's shy, she doesn't fit in, and although she wants to stick to her principles she sometimes finds all the high school peer pressure too hard to resist. While her ability to see that the two schools are heading towards disaster is born out of common sense rather than the gift of prophecy, she's endearingly clueless when it comes to Greg's true feelings towards her.
Although Troy High depicts a 'war' between two schools, the author has opted to keep the violence to a minimum here. The two sides attack with extravagant pranks rather than weapons, with results that are often as comical as they are dramatic. This sense of fun is reflected in the dialogue, with frequent witty banter and the occasional Illiad 'in' joke. Still, it's almost impossible to read it without feeling a sudden urge to read up on the Greek mythology behind this entertaining story.
Troy High is a smart and engaging take on a classical favourite. It's accessible and relevant to its YA audience, and the high school setting lends itself perfectly to the original story. The pages fly by, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an upbeat read that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a blast.
Out: September 1st 2010, UK / August 4th 2009, US
Many thanks to Abrams and Chronicle for providing a review copy of this book.