This might sound like a bizarre choice, but you have to understand that the novel is so much more than the film. The film’s fun, I’ll not deny that. But it’s a musical, not perhaps frothy, but not that deep either. How the hell do you take an ever-so slightly camp and over-the-top musical and turn it into a novel?
Well in this case, [Ron]De Christoforo took a minor character from the film, Danny’s best mate Sonny, and turned him into the engaging narrator of a gritty but fun, first-person novel. He also gave Sonny a girlfriend, Marsha, who joined the Pink Ladies, so that she could later tell Sonny things that had happened when the girls out of the boys’ sight. As for the songs, at least one that I recall (Greased Lightning) was re-imagined as an impromptu rapping sessions, with the rest just left out altogether.
Some novels draw you in, making you feel like you’re peeking into another world. That was how it was for me, with Grease: a young teenager in early 80s Britain feeling like he’d learned what it was to be a slightly older teenager in late 50s USA. It was full of detail: Polar Burgers, the pre-chain dump of a fast-food restaurant they used to eat at; the ‘57 Chevy pickup Sonny borrows from his cousin so he and Danny can go and visit Sandy; the zip gun Doody makes in shop that all the others laugh at.
It’s my favourite tie-in novel of all time. But more than that, it’s just one of my favourite novels.
I loved it.