October 2013, MacMillan, 320 pages, Paperback, Review copy
Themes: boarding school life, being an orphan, intelligence, horse mad friend, crazy friend, an awful tragedy, mysteries, secrets, hatred, searching for the truth, being in danger, grief, trying to remember things, never giving up,
Content: some teen romance, lots of tension, occasional violence, a few laughs, a tissue is needed
Summary from Pan MacMillan
Don't go down to the woods today . . .
You can’t get into St Jude’s Academy unless you’re gifted, talented and supremely rich. New girl Alyssa is on a scholarship and feels like an outsider - she's not even that smart, apart from her photographic memory (and that's cheating, right?). Then one day her room-mate Lily is found floating face down in the lake. It looks like suicide, but, torn apart with guilt and grief, Alyssa is convinced that things aren't as they seem. Soon a jolted memory puts her on the trail of a sinister secret that might hold the clues to Lily's suspicious death. But Alyssa is in too deep, and she's being watched . . .
I nearly stopped reading 50 pages in as I wasn't entirely gripped by Alyssa's story - it's probably more a case of me enjoying happier reads at the moment. However I'm glad I carried on because the pace picked up and the increased danger to Alyssa as she fought to find the truth about her friend's death gave me the shivers. Anything could have happened at the end. One incident in particular took me unawares and I was horrified by it. The full truth, when it gets unravelled, is nice and twisted- all is never what it seems at St Jude's. I liked Alyssa's aunt's attitude, I envied Alyssa her photographic memory, althoguh there are some events she would rather forget. The romance side wasn't too mushy or angst-ridden, and was definitely not the centre of the plot. All in all a fun read if you can bear the slower paced beginning.
Another Young Adult boarding school read full of intrigue, deception and danger is Firespell by Chloe Neill (Young Adult, 10E/10E)