Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Review: Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund

Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male. 
So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her? 
Whisked off into an initiation rite that’s a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fuelling a feud, and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.
A smart, sexy introduction to the life and times of a young woman in way over her head, Secret Society Girl is a charming and witty debut from a writer who knows her turf—and isn’t afraid to tell all....

Due to this book being ridiculously late showing up, I was quite grumpy with it. I put it in my to read pile and refused to look at it again. Until later that night when I couldn’t sleep and I was bored, and there’s only so much Wuthering Heights you can read in one go without wanting to top yourself.

So I picked up this. And then I didn’t even try to go to sleep.

I adored this book. I’m in the mood for non-fantasy young adult/adult with funky twists at the moment. See ‘Heist Society’ and ‘Witches of the East’ and this slots right in there and makes itself at home.
I mean secret societies?! Crazy initiation rights? Brilliantly witty characters? Hunky guys? What more could you possibly want??!

The first few pages I really couldn’t care less about Amy. She didn’t leap out and grab me, I didn’t know enough about her or her situation to really care, and I had no real reason to keep reading. But you do crazy things when you’re sleep deprived, so I kept reading. And boy am I glad that I did. Once the story gets going (it only takes a couple of chapters to do so, it’s not a long wait) it really draws you in and I found myself tearing through the book desperate to find out more.

I ended up loving Amy. Once Peterfreund settles down into the character I really got on well with her. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she rarely seems to think before she opens her mouth. She almost always has a come back or a sarcastic comment, and I loved it – possibly because she reminds me of me…
Reading other people’s comments on the book Amy seems to split people, they either love her or hate her, and I guess that might be partly on your sense of humour. If you like the sarcastic and witty, you’ll probably get on great with Amy.

The idea of secret societies is completely alien to me – why does England not have anything funky like this? Actually we might do, but I didn’t go to the type of university that has cool legacies – I went to the type where initiation means drunk rugby guys running stark naked up the drive and jumping in the lake…

So this concept was completely crazy to me, but I loved it. The only thing I didn’t like was some of the initiation. The boys were absolutely horrible to Amy, and even though they did apologize afterwards, that scene took it a little too far for me. To the point that if they got any worse I probably would have put the book down. Sorry but having the main character scared out of her mind by a load of guys doing it for fun is not my idea of a good time. So yeah, that scene, really not my cup of tea, but once we got past that it was all good – although I never really liked a lot of the guys after that.

One downside was that this book never moved past the initiation and the ‘big conflict’ so we didn’t really get to see some of normal society life – something I’m hoping to see more of in the next book.

I liked a lot of the secondary characters, but some of them either didn’t seem fully formed or wound me up the wrong way. I loved Brandon. I want to take him home. I want to love him better. I may make a tshirt saying all these things. He is my baby.

However, Lydia really didn’t do it for me. I don’t like it when books set up friends but only show them from the point of conflict, whilst on the other hand saying ‘oh but they’re best friends!’ If I never see any evidence of this, I don’t believe they could be – they just come off as being a bitch. And Lydia never really got past annoying roommate for me. There just wasn’t enough of her when she wasn’t storming off and being a bum.

I liked a lot of the other Rose & Grave members but didn’t feel like I got to know enough about them to really form an attachment. They just fell into loud stereotypes, which was a shame because Amy and Brandon are so brilliantly constructed, it felt a bit like Peterfreund couldn’t be arsed with the secondaries.

And then there’s Malcolm. I loved him, but I didn’t believe him. His sexual orientation seemed almost thrown in as a clever plot device – but it wasn’t particularly ground breaking and it wasn’t believable. A little more character development and it would have been.

And then we get to the big conflict. It was good, it hauled the plot along by its arse and kept everything on tenterhooks. I wanted to scream at the injustice of it all a lot longer before Amy did, and it gave a good catalyst not only for this book but for the entire series.

So in all, I really enjoyed the book. Yes there were some irritations, and some underdeveloped characters, but I’m hoping some of that might be resolved in the second book ‘Under the Rose’ which I already picked up and have started… What can I say? It’s like there’s crack sprinkled between the pages – these books are addictive! 

1 comment:

  1. I always sort of shy away when I see books about what are essentially posh children in an expensive school without any sort of supervision. There are the Blue Blood novels as well which seem similar to this and they all seem to hit on what you've highlighted in your review: too much drama, not enough character development, some weak twists. All in all, I think I'd prefer to read books about gang kids which are, of course, the other type of "leagues" in YA novels... - Elle