Archive for Private School
Publisher: SoHo Teen
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Source: Received from the publisher for review.
Status: According to the author’s tumblr, there will be at least two Keaton School Novels.
Genre: Teen, Psychological Thriller
Other Info: This is Margaux Froley’s debut.
Description and link from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she’s not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford’s psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. “Hutch”), one of the Keaton’s most popular students, commits suicide.
Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch’s friends, but she’s haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her. As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn’t have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentiality—and tortured by her unrequited love—Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch’s death, and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.
Full disclosure: This is the second review I’ve done of this book. The first one got lost in the mists of the interwebs, never to be seen again. And while I might feel better after some wailing and raising of my fists to the sky, I shan’t subject you to any more than I already did on Twitter. The worst part is, I was really happy with the first review. I’ll try to recreate it, but you probably already know that feeling doesn’t usually come that second time.
To sum up my feelings about Escape Theory in a sentence: I adored it. As I look over the books that I’ve read in 2013 (so far), this has been my favorite. The best part? It lived up to my enormously high expectations. In retrospect, there wasn’t really any reason for me to have those high expectations. SoHo Teen is a new imprint, and this is Froley’s debut. I’ve no more read her short story in Who Done It than I’ve watched Privileged. Luckily, whatever smidgen of clairvoyance I possess proved to be right. This time.
I suppose it’s possible that Escape Theory was the right book at the right time but, honestly, I believe it was more than that. Froley’s writing was intense and engaging. She pulled me not just into the mystery, but into the Keaton School community. I felt I was inhabiting the world. So much so that it was with great surprise that I periodically realized the book was written in the third person. Escape Theory was the kind of story that was disorienting to disengage from. Pulling myself away was like trying to escape from a vat of saltwater taffy; a sticky, messy process that left a million small bits behind.
Escape Theory‘s strength comes from Froley’s writing, true, but it also reflected the connection I felt to the main character. Devon’s internal dialogue reminded me a lot of my teenage self, even down to the moments when I wanted to shake her and tell her to get off her high horse. I did think, however, that Froley’s expended so much energy on developing Devon (and the very much dead Hutch) that the other characters felt a little one-dimensional. Even this worked, though, because the book is told from Devon’s point of view, and she has a tendency to remain clinically detached. Or to try to, anyway. Hopefully the other characters will be expanded upon in further Keaton School novels. I also hope that future stories are also from Devon’s perspective.
If I’m honest, the main mystery didn’t interest me very much. What was far more fascinating was the exploration of boarding school life and the mystery of Hutch himself. Not how or why he died, but why he lived the way he did, and why he and Devon had such a strong connection based on one night spent together. Speaking of Hutch, he doesn’t stand up to my adult standards (he dealt drugs, but that’s okay because he regulated how much each person got), but I bet the teenage me would have been as in love with him as the rest of Keaton.
I think Escape Theory‘s greatest strength comes from Froley’s ability to inhabit the teenage world. I read a lot of YA, but I don’t read it looking for an authentic teenage voice. In fact, a lot of YA (Dystopians, in particular) features teens having to mature because of the circumstances, thereby making us forget how truly young sixteen is. Froley doesn’t let us forget it, and this is most evident in Devon’s role as a peer counselor. Training or no, Devon’s in over her head when she starts counseling the best friends that Hutch leaves behind. We know she’ll be a good therapist someday, just not yet.
I loved this book, flaws and all. Lack of romance and all (gasp!). I’ve already recommended it to my brother and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my readers as well. And when you’ve finished the last page, come back here to let me know your thoughts!
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Source: Received from the publisher for review (via NetGalley)
Genre: Teen, Psychological Thriller
Other Info: Megan Miranda’s debut, Fracture, came out in 2012. A companion novel, Vengeance, will be released in 2014.
Description and link from Goodreads):
Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can’t remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn’t charged. But Mallory still feels Brian’s presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past. But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others.
In another riveting tale of life and death, Megan Miranda’s masterful storytelling brings readers along for a ride to the edge of sanity and back again.
I’m a big fan of teen thrillers, especially since they’re not exactly thick on the ground these days. Honestly, I’m the perfect example of some the way demand is created via scarcity. Anyway, I have a caveat: teen thrillers with paranormal elements are easy to find. And they can be fun, but I prefer my mysteries straight up. And I’d say Hysteria leans away from the paranormal and toward the tricks the mind can play, especially after traumatic events. And what’s more traumatic than killing someone and not remembering doing it? (Probably a few things, but let’s not go there.)
However, Hysteria isn’t about the killing itself. It’s about the aftermath. How Brian’s death affects Mallory, her family, and his family. It’s also about the deep friendship between Mallory and her best friend, Colleen. It’s not entirely successful, and I guessed whodunnit fairly quickly, but I did practically read the book in one sitting. I contend that this has to account for something. A book that encourages you to speed through the pages to the end has value, even if you don’t feel satisfied upon finishing the last page.
So, yes, I raced through this book; was absorbed by it. Even as I read, though, I was aware that things weren’t working for me. Mallory, while the traumatized victim, was not exactly a sympathetic character. Flashbacks, remembered at jagged intervals, slowly reveal the circumstances of Brian’s death. They also reveal Mallory’s relationship with him, which does not exactly paint her in a favorable light. Basically, while I thought “That sucks,” about her situation, I didn’t really feel it. Maybe I’m just cold-hearted–and I in no way mean that Mallory’s actions deserved to be met with violence–but I would have appreciated a little more self-reflection on her part. A little acknowledgement of the part she played in the whole mess. To be more specific would be to spoil, though, so I can’t really go on.
Also, the parts of the novel that I found most intriguing–how Mallory’s relationship with her parents changed after Brian’s death–got the short shrift in terms of resolution. The focus is on Mallory coming to terms with Brian’s death, and on moving past it, what moving past it means regarding her relationship with Colleen, and what moving on looks like, period. Which is why the boarding school setting felt like a convenient excuse to escape adult supervision–one of the trickiest aspects of teen fiction. I like boarding school settings, but I prefer them when they play a role in the story. I didn’t really get that feeling from Hysteria.
To sum up: Hysteria was a quick, absorbing read. It was a little like a Hostess Cupcake (RIP). It tastes good and it’s gone quickly, but it leaves you wishing you’d actually had Death By Chocolate Cake instead.
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: November 29, 2011
Status: Second in the Mythos Academy series. Book one, Touch of Frost came out earlier this year, book three, Dark Frost, has a publication date of May 29, 2012, and book four, Crimson Frost is expected to be released in January 2013.
Source: Received from the author for review (Thanks Jennifer!)
Genre: Private School Paranormal, YA
Other Info: Jennifer Estep is the author of the Elemental Assassin series and the Bigtime books. The Mythos Academy series is her first foray into YA.
Description and link from Goodreads:
Kiss of Frost is a solid follow-up to a series that is vivid, surprising and fascinating all at the same time. Unfortunately, because I began this book with high expectations, I was disappointed by its slow start. Jennifer Estep spends an inordinate amount of time reacquainting her readers with the Mythos world. I needed a little refresher–no question–but I was about to start skimming pages when the story finally picked up.
Once it got started, Kiss of Frost was a fast and furious read after that. It hit the ground running and didn’t stop. While this makes for an exciting book, it detracted from what I’ll call the “Veronica Mars” element that I loved so much in book one. Gwen doesn’t get to spend a great deal of time investigating because she’s too busy being in danger and running for her life. Not to mention moping about Logan. Granted he’s hot (oh so hot), and Gwen’s a teenager, and these two factors combine to make the fact that he’s dating someone else wickedly painful for her, but I wanted a little less moping and a little more of the self-confidence she exhibited in Touch of Frost.
I did love the relationship between Gwen and Daphne. It’s touching to see Gwen have a true best friend at last, and their relationship is portrayed with realism. Gwen and Daphne’s friendship began about the same time as Daphne’s relationship with Carson, a fact of which Gwen tries to be respectful–sometimes to her own detriment. Also, I think the two girls are still trying to figure out how to be best friends, and for Gwen especially, that’s not going to be a smooth path.
Back when I read Touch of Frost, I developed a major crush on Logan Quinn, but in this book, his allure waned a bit for me. This was, in part, due to two things. One, he plays a much smaller role in this book. He makes a number of onscreen, nonspeaking appearances, and Gwen thinks about him a great deal, but we don’t get to see him, er, in action all that much. The other issue was Logan dating Savannah when he had feelings for Gwen. It was a crummy thing to do, and I liked him the less for it. Kind of like I’m really hoping it’s only a rumor that he signs all the mattresses of the girls he’s slept with. Because: ew.
Finally, there was the mystery, which was the weakest element of Kiss of Frost. The mysteries weren’t mysterious at all. (Though to be honest, I only guessed half of Oliver’s secret.) In all, Kiss of Frost suffers from book two malady. It’s a bridge to the next book, but doesn’t stand well on its own. I’m looking forward to the next installment because I know what Jennifer Estep can do–and this wasn’t it.
I am so very pleased to welcome Jennifer Estep to the blog today. I’ve been excited about her Mythos Academy series since it was a twinkle in Jennifer’s eye, and she’s done nothing dispel my adoration since. Kiss of Frost was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the fall (catch my review tomorrow). Lucky for you, Jennifer’s kindly provided me with an excerpt from her recently released Kiss of Frost. But before we get to that, meet Jennifer Estep…
And learn a little bit about Kiss of Frost…
And then read the excerpt…
With a third, still-warm cookie in my hand, I left Grandma Frost’s house. The sun had given up trying to break through the clouds, and it had gotten even darker and colder while I’d been inside. I shoved the rest of the cookie into my mouth and stuck my hands deep into my jacket pockets, wishing I’d thought to wear gloves today. Of course, I supposed I could have worn gloves around the clock to cut down on the flashes I got off other people and objects. But I already felt like enough of a freak as it was. Wearing elbow-length gloves all the time would so not help my social status at Mythos.I walked to the end of the block, looked both ways to make sure the coast was clear, and stepped out into the street heading for the bus stop on the opposite side.I didn’t even see the car until it was right on top of me.It was a big, black, expensive SUV with a shiny silver grille—and it was racing right toward me.I froze in the middle of the street, not quite believing what I was seeing, not quite believing that the driver hadn’t spotted me, that he wasn’t going to blow the horn and slam on his brakes at any moment. Where had he come from? The street had been completely empty a second ago.The SUV kept coming and coming, and the wheels kept churning and churning, gulping down all the pavement that separated us. The tinted windshield loomed up in my vision until it was all that I could see—a hungry black maw that was going to swallow me up whole, and then spit out my bloody, broken bones.It seemed like forever, but after a second, my brain kicked in, screaming Move! Move! Move! I didn’t have an Amazon’s lightning-quick speed, but I managed to throw myself forward, my body slamming against a rusty pickup truck parked on the opposite side of the street.
The SUV roared past me, so close I felt the rush of air from its passing brush the back of my jacket. The vehicle zoomed down the street, zipped around the corner at the end of the block, and disappeared from view. The driver never slowed down—not even for a second.
With my mouth open, heart hammering, arms trembling, and legs shaking, I stared down the empty street and wondered whether or not the whole thing had been an accident—or something far more sinister.
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Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Status: First in the Shades of London series.
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Genre: Teen Paranormal, Ghosts
Other Info: Maureen Johnson is also the author of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. For a complete list of her works, please visit her Goodreads page.
Description (from Goodreads):