My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Well, well. This was unexpected. I really didn’t think I would like this book this much. Prep School Confidential has everything I want – friendship, romance, an intriguing mystery and character development – with excellent execution in a completely believable setting. Kudos to you, Ms.Taylor.
When I first met Anne Dowling, I disliked everything about her. She is whiny, pretentious, incapable of thinking beyond herself and kind of oblivious. She is also caught making out with a guy who she clearly knows she can do better than.
““Oh, Martin. Totally not worth this. Why can’t I stay away? I think it’s partly because he wears Burt’s Bees lip balm, and I’m a sucker for a guy with well-conditioned lips.”
And the she sets the curtains of her school’s auditorium on fire. Genius.
All hope is not lost, though, especially after Anne is sent to her new school in Boston. She vastly improves as a character once the mystery gets going, showing herself to be open-minded, loyal and determined. Her snark is an added bonus.
“The crew team guys live in suites,” April explains.
“They have their own bathrooms.” Remy sighs.
“Wait, they get special rooms because they play a sport?” I ask. “Why, so their menstrual cycles sync up or something?”
“I like her,” Phil says to Remy, sliding his ID into the door. ”
I like her too.
Anne’s room mate Isabella, initially presented as a studious dorm-mouse, turns out be a girl with fingers in many pies. Anne’s blind faith in her goodness is one of the rare things that annoyed me towards the end of the book. You said it yourself, you’ve only known the girl a week.
Characterisation is a strong point of this book, because all the characters are -gasp!- human beings who have lives outside the events surrounding the MC. They go home on weekends, have part-time jobs, work in committees and do other normal stuff. There is even that insidious invention that haunts student life – homework.
Though Anne may not focusing all that much on it:
“When I get back to my room, I make myself a cup of chai tea and attempt to get my homework done. Except after fifteen minutes, I realize I’ve answered the question “What modernist painting movement depicts emotion instead of physical reality?” with “37.”
People are actually friends or enemies for a reason,since they have a past together.There is also, yay for me, cultural diversity. I got so excited when I saw Murali’s name, thinking “Oh wow, there’s an Indian and South Indian at that,” but then I saw his last name (Thakur) and I got slightly deflated. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the probability of that name is so low, it’s like saying:
But nitpicking aside, I adore Murali and Cole, probably more than the MC’s love interests. They’re so normal .*Quickly kidnaps them before other fans see*
Female friendship is strong and pretty girls are not vilified, so yay again. The one female queen-bee antagonist (who doesn’t exist solely to torture the MC) is motivated more by her need to survive in the complex web of lies Anne unravels rather than personal dislike (though it exists.)
Anne doesn’t either, especially when the investigation starts and this, I think, is her best feature. She is a teenager who wants a boyfriend and the usual stuff, but she is a sensible one.
“I need to focus on my schoolwork, on piecing together the information I have about Isabella’s murder, on keeping my latest encounter with the police from my parents. Kissing Anthony is a distraction I can’t afford.”
Which brings us to…
…there will be love triangles.
To be honest, the book would have been perfectly good even without it, but hey, I’m not complaining. It’s a 2-for-1 offer. The romance develops beautifully, moving from friendly attraction to a satisfyingly romantic conclusion. There is a love triangle, but not the kind that jabs your eye every time you turn the page. Personally I prefer Anthony over Brent, but Anne’s distrust of him is reasonable. I wouldn’t want to date him either given what I know about him. Anne also admits, unselfishly, that she can’t really have the best of both worlds.
“ I’m not dealing with two awesome pairs of shoes here. I can’t have both of them. Even if I choose one, we’ll all be thinking about the other.”
Learn Bella. Learn. Anne doesn’t stand for any nonsense either. She may like Brent and Anthony but that doesn’t mean they can do what they please.
Take this example with Anthony:
“Why do you always do that?” I demand.
“Assume that people are judging you. That I’m judging you.” I put my hands on my hips. “Stop it. Because I actually like being around you. And I’m guessing that’s not something you hear a lot.”
“I allow myself to look at Brent again, briefly, as Cole and I walk back to the table together. I miss him, a lot, but the last thing I need right now is him projecting all of his trust issues onto me.
I’ve got enough issues of my own right now.”
Yeah, sometimes in this book, they are. You really shouldn’t expect to keep everything to yourself and still have a healthy relationship.
The Mystery and Plot:
(You knew I was building up to this, right?)
I generally don’t like reading mystery novels that are not Agatha Christie and I haven’t liked a mystery anime since Tantei Gakuen, but I found this book’s plot very, very compelling. It is a gripping mystery partly because I can totally see this kind of cover-up happening in the real world and partly because Anne uses common sense to solve it. There is nothing more irritating than deductions that have the logical weight of air and clues that appear via the deus ex machina express. Anne goes out to research, she uses simple observations and conversation to find out more and she never rules out possibilities. She also takes precautions to safeguard both her and the information she finds, which is very heartening.
Good for you, girl.
So, PSC is a highly readable, stimulating book that keeps you guessing till the end. There are some minor flaws here and there, but if you can get past the first couple of chapters, this is one read that is truly worth it.