Don’t just read Winner Take All…Experience it!
I read Winner Take All by Laurie Devore at the suggestion of my mentor, Shannon Thompson, author of the Timely Death Trilogy, who I already owe so much to after just a little over four months.
Winner Take All tells the story of Nell who wanted to be better than everyone at everything at her competitive private school. But when she develops feelings for her main rival, Jackson– the most frustratingly entitled boy there– she must decide what she’s willing to risk, and how far she’s willing to go to stay on top.
Based on the title, I initially assumed the book was suggested due to its plot involving two classmates in a competition against one another. My manuscript in progress, The Freshman Fifteen, involves a competition between two classmates as well. However, when I started reading, I began to think it was recommended to me more as a stellar example of how to develop mood through language– showing not telling.
To say I was engrossed in this book is an understatement. I would describe my manuscript as generally lighthearted and fun with maybe a touch of seriousness here and there. I would describe Winner Take All as overwhelmingly consuming. When Nell and Jackson are together on the page their raw dialogue paired with Nell’s overly analytical thoughts made me feel increasingly anxious as she struggled to maintain some level of control in her life.
In Winner Take All, The Scarlet Letter is repeatedly referenced. It’s a big part of the opening scene, which had me hooked in the first paragraph, and plays a role in Nell’s perception of the double standards at her school.
Of all of the books I have read over time, I haven’t read The Scarlet Letter. I knew the premise. I remember even years ago enjoying the movie Easy A, which took a somewhat humorous look at this book. After finishing Winner Take All, I knew it was long past time for me to pick up The Scarlet Letter.
The thing that took me by surprise with The Scarlet Letter was how over time Hester, despite being the subject of judgment and scrutiny, seems to rise above the presumptions of others and continually offer support to those who have wronged her. Whether or not her actions are acknowledged, Hester has helped many people in their time of need, because she knows what it is to need.
This idea somewhat parallels the relationship of Nell and Jackson, because there’s a certain amount of need on Jackson’s part despite being so “privileged”. Because Nell has such a different background from the majority of her private school peers, she isn’t expected to play by their rules. Although the downside is she also isn’t granted the benefits that comes from being a part of their world. Both Nell and Jackson see the negatives of their realities while they see the positives of one another’s, often jumping to conclusions about the other’s motives and choices. It breeds volatile tension between them.
If you have read The Scarlet Letter, you might be wondering how else Nell and Jackson’s relationship mirrors that of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Since I’m not about spoilers, you’ll have to read both books and draw some conclusions of your own!
So there you have it, next time you’re in the mood for an engrossing read grab Winner Take All. Don’t read it when you have pressing matters at hand, and don’t try to multitask. Be ready to sit down and turn page after page, because you won’t want to put it down.
If you haven’t already read Winner Take All, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do– don’t just read it, experience it!