Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release: July 30, 2013
Source: Publisher
Others in the Series: Wicked Little Secrets
In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne could care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.
In Prep School Confidential, people lie. From false leads and framers to murder and mystery, readers never know what to believe. In its blurb, adjectives lie. Is this book unputdownable? A bit. But is it breathtaking? No. And there are reasons for both of the above.

At the beginning, the plot is fast-paced, but in a different sense than that which those words normally bring to mind. Kara Taylor rushes the initial sequence of events, and until the reveal of Isabella's death, I felt like I was reading this book in fast-forward or skimming a SparkNotes version of the original text. The pages do not hold any description of fire engulfing heavy stage curtains, fear hot in its face, or any depth in Anne's post-accidental arson interactions with her parents beyond a passive whine when she learns she is going to boarding school. The plot could have been much more automatically gripping had the author devoted a few more words to the exposition, but as it is, Prep School Confidential takes a few pages before becoming exciting.

This novel also presents a seriously skewed idea of popularity in high school environments and is far too over the top in that regard to seem realistic. Throughout the story, it is embellished as something concrete and tangible, as if alpha teenagers are supposed to be given a certificate saying "Congratulations! You ruled your school!" For example, when the main character shows up at her new cafeteria and all the established populars sit by her because she is from New York, Isabella makes the observation that they are "grooming" her to "be their next leader." What? The characters in this book are people, not wild animals; influence grows organically in human environments, not as a result of unanimous selection and a specific queen-bee training course instated by future subjects. All of this is tiresome and highly reminiscent of a made-for-TV high school movie and its scripted quality that tries too hard to be hip detracted from my enjoyment of the plot.

But I kept reading. And no, not because I had to for a blog tour. Because after the murder, Prep School Confidential becomes addictive. With rushes of adrenaline powerful enough to keep anyone enraptured and a ridiculous school board whose desire to keep their record clean leads to unfair cover-ups and complications that will leave you cheering for Anne as she overcomes the odds, this book is the kind of scandalously, secretly readable story to which you just cannot say no. Despite the less-than stellar style, this novel's plot made me angry, anxious, and argumentative in all the right ways, which is enough to require me to recommend it to someone looking for a fun, mysterious read.

Perfect for fans of Sara Shepard, Gemma Halliday, or Lili Peloquin, this fitting edition to my summer reading repertoire left me with empty spaces, but ones that were at least partially filled simply with the desire to find out who killed Isabella. Although Prep School Confidential is an unfortunate disappointment, it is nearly impossible not to enjoy it a little. The characters, in all their grating glory, do things and say things to draw readers in, and anyone who encounters this book will be left both annoyed and intrigued at the same time, an inexplicably hooking combination that keeps readers coming back for more.

6 comments:

  1. It's a huge pet peeve of mine when popularity is inaccurately portrayed. (Also, is it just me, or does this cover look a LOT like United We Spy?)

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    1. I feel the same way. Stereotypes in gereral are annoying, but this whole misguided popularity paradigm to which some people seem to subscribe is not at all realistic. Maybe this differs elsewhere, but at my school, popularity is far from regimented and we all just have friends. Some people are clearly more popular than others, but there is no exclusive clique or queen bee like you see in movies, so I have a hard time buying into stories set in places that do.

      And now that you mention it, yes! I feel ridiculous for not noticing that before. United We Spy does have its own graduation gown thing going on, but the color scheme and the faceless uniformed girl are eerily similar. I'm not sure which cover was revealed first, but they are both cute so I don't mind TOO much.

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  2. I'm sad you didn't like it more! I can't say this intrigues me very much - the whole rich girls dealing with murder is a bit tiring - but I'm glad the mystery was done well! Who can resist an addictive mystery? :)

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    1. You'll be fine passing this up if the synopsis doesn't intrigue you, because the book is essentially just what it sounds like. It is fun, and I would recommend it if you ever do feel like an addictive mystery, but it is not an everyone-needs-to-read-this kind of novel.

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  3. Stereotypes = a sad thing in our society and books. I hate it when books are pushed to be "hip" and like you said, are basically scripted for a made-for-tv movie. I kinda laughed out loud when you said that they're humans, not wild animals :)

    But I think I might give this a try since you said it was addicting :) I've found many of those books where the plot and style is super annoying, but the book sucks you in!

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    1. Yes, everything would be better without stereotypes. It is sad how early and deeply they become embedded into our brains, and I hate it when fiction promotes them.

      There is a lot to be said for a book that sucks you in, though. I hope that this novel's addicting quality makes it worth it for you if you decide to read it.

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