Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
Graduation can be a time full of excitement and unlimited possibilities... and/or it could be a time of anxiety, dramatic changes, and even heartbreak.
Senior Thesis by Darren Greninger is a competently written script about a recent grad, Landon Riser, who seems to be trying to find his place in the sun, swiftly suffering a breakup, struggling to make a fantasy football podcast profitable, and deciding on which college he'll attend (if at all).
His relationship to (or lack thereof) with Aurora seems to form the backbone of the plot with the two going through a difficult and somewhat traumatic transitional period during senior week. Aurora expects more for herself, her life, and her boyfriend. She wants to be with someone who has all their ducks in a row, their sheep in order, a career, goals, and a path toward a stable life. Unfortunately, Landon has none of that.
Landon is, for all intents and purposes, a bit of ne'er-do-well and a loser. This makes him both an annoying character and a somewhat compelling one. After all, we can all sympathize with someone who keeps trying and keep failing. However, we can also be frustrated when they just can't seem to make things work.
Originally, we were not going to be too kind reviewing this book. Overall, the plot and general tone is really... silly and goofy. It ranges from lighthearted to absurdist and ridiculous, a lot like one of those teen movies that are just there for the quick, cheap chuckles and sexual shock value. Ok, let's call it escapism. There's really nothing in this story that grabs you and makes you care about the characters. They don't seem like real people, more like action figures (yes, toys) being made to say and do silly/goofy stuff. In all fairness, this is par for the course in modern script writing, even for big TV and film studios. It almost seems like scriptwriters have been taught to shock the audience rather than writing what seems natural or real. It goes back to the question: Who talks like that? It's pervasive in all types of media, not just this book. It is, like we said, a trend.
We were going to start this review by saying something cheeky like: “The title Senior Thesis is perfect for this novella because it reads like the answer to an end-of-year prompt/project that was done at the last minute and without planning—completely shot from the hip and by the seat of the writer's pants. The book flies from one thing to another, seemingly filling space while eliciting occasional chuckles and eye-raises.”
However, this book/script does shine in one way: being a competently-constructed script. It's rather impressive that, from beginning to end (for over 150 pages), every scene is detailed perfectly. You know who is talking, who they're talking to, what location the scene is being shot/taking place at, whether it's inside or outside, and sometimes even what the weather is like or what the background is doing!
That's actually very impressive, and shows a level of skill and competency on behalf of the scriptwriter that's admirable.
Another thing we enjoyed about the book, despite it being quite absurd, was the Nerf war that the school holds. Yes, we realize that it's analogous or a metaphor to the way that the education system and society pits people and students against each other in a dog-eat-dog way. It reminded us a lot of Battle Royale or the airsoft war in School Rumble. It was extra funny how seriously the competitors took it, and especially funny how the school president seems to not only condone but celebrate this “violence.” In the backdrop, faculty and staff are described as assaulting each other American Gladiator style, knocking each other into pits of gymnastics blocks.
What kinda ruins the immersion or realism of this scene is how adept all of the characters are with their weapons/equipment. They know how to load, aim, and fire their weapons without fail. They even know how to deploy their Nerf grenades. This is all without training, explanation, or prior (described) experience, mind you.
The other thing about this book is that, despite the focus on Landon and Aurora, their dynamic seems off for some reason, and it's actually quite hard to cheer for either of them. Landon, first of all, is unlikable in how apprehensive, aloof, and overall ineffectual he is as a character/human being. Aurora is unlikable because she comes across as mean, condescending, and selfish. Thankfully, the rest of the cast helps to liven things. This includes Chester, James, Rebecca, and Maggie.
One of the great things about this book, as we alluded to before, is that it has a certain self-aware/referential humor to it. For example, Aurora is described as performing a “Hills-Are-Alive” style of twirling, a familiar and funny reference to The Sound of Music. When the characters are engaged in their Nerf war, a female spectator yells from the crowd: “Finish her.” This is a comedic reference to Mortal Kombat.
The value in this book is that it is well structured as a script and demonstrates that the writer has the potential to craft scripts that might be seen on Hallmark Channel or Disney Channel.
Check it out on Amazon!