From the New York Times bestselling author of Chocolat comes a dark, suspenseful tale in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about a sociopathic young outcast at an antiquated prep school and the curmudgeonly Latin teacher who uncovers his dangerous secret.
After thirty years at St. Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, England, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its own clowns, rebels, and underdogs—all who hold a special place in the old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t quite fit the mold. A troublemaker. A boy with darkness inside.
With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new headmaster arrives at the venerable school, bringing with him new technology, sharp suits, and even girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist these steps toward the future, a shadow from his past begins to stir again. A boy who still haunts Straitley’s dreams twenty years later. A boy capable of terrible things.
Wow — this was one of those books that again I could not put down. If you know me, you know I love reading about boarding schools, and this author captured all the nuances quite accurately. It was not only believable (so many books are just ridiculous – full of overprivileged and clueless rich kids with absent parents) but it captured the clash of old versus new. These types of schools often have teachers who have devoted their entire career to them – and have even been a student there themselves. They were educated there, lived there, worked there, and have become part of the fabric of the school. Straitley is one of those. So while yes, this is a mystery and is suspenseful, I found the character development and the portrayal of the intricacies and loyalties of a life in a school so very interesting.
I chose this paranormal YA romance from Net Galley because, ever since middle school, I am a sucker for books that take place in boarding schools! THE UNSEEMLY EDUCATION OF ANNE MERCHANT is the first in a trilogy (wish I had known this going in to it as the ending disappointed me due to lack of resolution!). Undertaker’s daughter, Anne Merchant, is sent from her humble home in a very wealthy area of California to an island off Maine to the elite Cania Christie boarding school. Right away she notices that everyone there is almost creepily perfect, and they all are bent on an almost ridiculous race to become valedictorian. Anne soon realizes that nothing is as it seems, that valedictorian means much more than grades, and that getting in to Cania Christie is so difficult and expensive, well let’s just say that people are dying to get in!
I can’t say too much more without giving it all away, but Anne works with new friends to explore and understand the mysteries of the school and the island (and villagers) where they live. The more she finds out, the more terrifying it all becomes. Add in some romance, teen angst, and conflict and you have fun (older – due to sexual content) YA fare. I can see this book as a movie – sort of Twilight meets Hunger Games.
Thanks, Net Galley and BenBella Books for my copy!
I grabbed this book on a whim off Net Galley. If you read me you know I love YA and I have a special spot in my reader’s heart for stories that take place in boarding schools. I’m rather critical of these story lines since I’ve worked in independent schools since the 80’s, and quite honestly, if the administrators were as clueless/useless/evil/unavailable as they usually are portrayed, well, they’d all have gone out of business long ago! I was prepared to not really like this book – to be honest the title put me off – so I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed reading it!
PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, which is the first in a series, starts with protagonist Anne Dowling getting expelled from her toney Manhattan private school for (accidentally) setting a fire. She is shipped off to a New England boarding school in the Boston suburbs where her first order of business is to rearrange the pecking order and get herself to the top of the social hierarchy. Anne’s a tough nut to crack – she’s feisty, tough, and fearless. At the same time, though, she’s sincere and has integrity (which is more that can be said about some other characters). She quickly forms her friends and enemies. Then her roommate goes missing and is found murdered. Anne seems to care more than the administration does about finding Isabella’s killer, so she starts her own “investigation” to figure out how and why Isabella was killed.
I’m a tad embarrassed to admit it, but I couldn’t put this book down. I thought the mystery was cleverly plotted and I liked the character of Anne. I often laughed out loud at her sarcasm and humor. I would have absolutely loved this book when I was in high school. I think Ms. Taylor did well with her independent school portrayal, and I wonder if she maybe attended a school very like Wheatley in real life!
I’m looking forward to the next book in this series which will be out in 2014.
Thanks, Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for my copy.