Title: Prep School Confidential
Author: Kara Tyler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
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 couldn’t 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.
This sounded like a kind of fluffy but still enjoyable book, but I admit I was worried coming into it after a string of DNFs and other less-than-impressive debuts this past year. Luckily, it turned out to be just as enjoyable and interesting as I had hoped (although not much more).
I feel like the main character, Anne, is the type of protagonist that I would often dislike, but I actually did like her for the most part. The same went with the supporting cast – there were characters that I think could have been fleshed out more and there were some slightly cliché characters, but I enjoyed them all for the most part. My main problem was Alexis, one of the main suspects – she’s the classic “mean girl” but most of the time it seemed like she was the mean girl simply because Anne didn’t like her. When she did mean things, they seemed slightly out of character. I hope to get a deeper look into her character with future books.
The mystery is probably the most important thing in a book like this, though. There were a lot of components to the mystery – there were three main suspects and Anne kept uncovering lots of new information about the murder and her roommate. Sometimes she jumped around from theory to theory a bit too much, focusing on one suspect and their possible motive to the point where you almost forgot that she had two other suspects she was equally obsessed with, but the story moved quick enough that that didn’t matter too much. There were also plenty of red herrings and such to keep you guessing.
Is talking about the killer spoiler-y? I don’t think this gives away too much, but be warned anyway. Did I figure out the killer ahead of time? Nope. Do I think some people will figure it out a lot sooner? Sure. But, and I think this is a very important thing to consider: do I think the killer, despite how unexpected he/she was to me and Anne, made sense? Absolutely. It came slightly out of left field, but it also made sense in the end. I don’t know if I was just thinking this to try and soothe my bruised ego for not figuring it out right away, but after the killer was revealed, I kept thinking that I had my suspicions about this person. It made sense to me, and that definitely made it possible for me to enjoy the mystery even though I didn’t guess the killer.
This is kind of unrelated, but it’s something brought up in the story, attached to one of Anne’s suspects, that I was kind of happy to see in a YA book. (This might be a spoiler, so tread lightly) One of the people that Anne suspects is a fellow classmate that apparently stalked and harassed (not verbally or physically, just unwanted) Anne’s roommate and the victim, Isabella. The character is a pretty quiet boy who seems quite smart and shy and not the type of person that one would normally be scared of, although he is a big boy who can be physically intimidating. Near the end of the book, Anne has a confrontation with him where he makes it clear that he was sorry for scaring her and that he never meant to; I feel bad about this, but I was feeling kind of sorry for him. Anne, however, was brave enough to tell him that what he did was wrong, no matter his intentions, and it wasn’t right that the school covered it up and Isabella had to go out of her way to stay away from him because she was seriously afraid for her safety.
So, this wasn’t a perfect book, but it was highly enjoyable and had an interesting mystery with many twists, so I definitely plan on sticking around for the sequel and its focus on a cold case that was on the back burner in this book.