YA Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

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!

Review: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

Through Net Galley I got a copy of “The Underside of Joy” to review. This is the debut novel of Sere Prince Halverson and I enjoyed it a lot.

When Ella Beene’s husband Joe dies tragically, Ella plans to continue her life with the family store and as stepmother to Joe’s two young children. But soon their absent biological mother shows up, and she wants to be part of their lives. Ella is torn between holding on to the children she has called her own, while trying to reconcile the presence of their biological mother, who she was told had abandoned them. Ella soon learns that Joe did not share everything with her, and she struggles to find the truth and make the right choices for her and her family.

This was a fascinating book as the main moral dilemma was just that: a dilemma. Paige, the biological mother, was not evil incarnate. Ella, the protagonist, was not perfect. I found myself often asking: what would I do in this situation? While the story concluded quickly, I felt it was well-written and compelling. Additionally, there was interesting information on postpartum extreme depression (actually psychosis I believe it would qualify as) and also internment camps for Italian-Americans during WWII (I’m IA and this was new to me).

This book came out this month – I recommend it!

Thanks to Net Galley and Dutton Publishers for my copy!