Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

*I originally wrote this article and Blogger had a bit of fun and totally deleted it. Good times. This review isn't as well-written because I was trying to recapture what I originally had written and was happy with. I'm off to sulk now.

Best Bits: What I really appreciated about this book was the meta moments. About halfway through she has this moment where she realizes how unreal her experiences have been. Anne attends a dark and creepy school (*thunder crashes and lightning flashes*) filled with the world's elite. You don't often find characters who are self-aware enough to say, "That's more than enough Crazy for one lifetime, never mind one week." These moments were peppered throughout the book, and were a nudge and a wink to the reader. That tone kept the book from being too over-the-top and cheesy.

I'm not sure that many readers will have seen the movie that I'm about to reference, and if you haven't then I fully suggest that you don't. The divide between the school and the villagers reminded me a bit of The Wicker Man (the 70's Christopher Lee version, not the even more ridiculous Nicholas Cage version). The reader sees some creepy rituals that the villagers partake in, and although it felt really sinister I wanted to know more about why the villagers were doing these things. Seriously, don't watch the movie. I had to watch it for school and write a paper about it. I'm having awful flashbacks. I digress...

Nit Picks: I think that this one was more of a NA than a YA read. I don't feel like it's spoiling too much to say that at Cania Christy the race for valedictorian depends on an individual's abilities (i.e. seduction). This is an area where I feel that the book missed it's potential. Why not give the girls abilities (there are a few that are also learning how to manipulate via seduction), and make them vastly different? This piece of the plot had the opportunity to be great, but it missed the mark. I also thought that this one took a long time to get going. It did take over a hundred pages to get through the first week of school, in which not a lot happened. Yes, the second half was suspenseful, and allowed the reader to figure out the motives behind many characters, but if it hadn't been for the humor I'm not sure it would have kept me reading.

The Unseemly Education of Anne merchant
By Joanna Wiebe
Published by BenBella Books
272 Pages
Received for Review


Ashfa said...

I've seen this book on blogs a few time but was never really interested because of the cover. Sounds quite good and I'm adding it to my TBR list.

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