What is this prep school preparing them for?
Camden Fisher arrives at boarding school haunted by a falling-out with her best friend back home. But the manicured grounds of Lethe Academy are like nothing Cam has ever known. There are gorgeous, preppy boys wielding tennis rackets, and circles of girls with secrets to spare. Only…something is not quite right. One of Cam’s new friends mysteriously disappears, but the teachers don’t seem too concerned. Cam wakes up to strangers in her room, who then melt into the night. She is suddenly plagued by odd memories, and senses there might be something dark and terrible brewing. But what? The answer will leave Cam—and readers—stunned and breathless, in this thrilling debut novel.
I admit, I was nervous going into this one because a lot of the reviewers I trust didn’t really like this one much. I like almost anything to do with boarding schools, mysteries, and supernatural activities. I was hoping this would be a repeat of The Nightmare Affair, which I really liked. And I really thought this one was okay. The characters are a little flat, yes, but the story isn’t terrible and neither is the writing, in my opinion. I know that’s not the best way to sell the novel, but it’s true. This isn’t like a masterful work of creative genius, but I thought it was fun enough. And that’s the problem, right? My feelings about the book and my connection to the characters never got past lukewarm. Camden is your typical YA protagonist: only one friend, clueless about boys, introverted, etc. Brynn is the pretty sporty girl who can get any guy she wants. Jessie and Nora are nerds. Mark Elliot is the Hot Guy. It’s all pretty standard stuff. Nothing really happens in the first quarter of the book besides the introduction of a secret room and the revelation that Jessie’s brother died the summer before. Then there’s a seance, Camden pulls a prank, and everything goes to hell. I thought it was sufficiently weird and kind of creepy. We do eventually get some character development for Brynn that I liked. I guess the reveal was slow, but I wasn’t ever bored while reading this one.
There’s mystery surrounding Nora and her secret room, Brynn and her [can’t tell you, it’s a spoiler], Camden and her dad saying, “You don’t belong here anymore.” We certainly don’t have any answers at the 2/3 mark, and nothing truly supernatural has happened, aside from the seance and the possible hallucinations Camden is having. Things start getting weird with Mark Elliot and even the teachers. This is the point, around three-quarters, where I realized: wow, there really isn’t anything happening here. Just Camden thinking about stuff, kissing Mark Elliot, and just generally wandering the campus. We haven’t really heard anything about Nora’s secret room in a while. Things are coming to a head around that time though, so I started expecting a big reveal or a twist of some kind. I had my suspicions about what that twist would be at that point, and I was right! I am almost never right about these things, so I get really excited when I am. I was still second-guessing at that point though, so it was a nice surprise to be right.
There was some pretty typical body shaming in this novel that I didn’t like (Camden refers to a girl as “a touch anorexic”). Even if it’s meant to be a joke, I don’t think anorexia is funny. Sorry. This sort of thing happens a lot in YA and just in general. It’s just something that sticks out to me when I read anything these days. I liked that Camden made friends, though, and didn’t spend all her time with Mark. I liked that there was antagonism and also friendship between the girls in the dorm. I liked the plot, even though it was a little strange and slow. I think this one is a pretty solid three stars. I’d read another novel by Applegate as well.