First in a series
By Kara Taylor
Available now from St. Martin's Griffin
It could be easy to hate Anne Dowling, the protagonist of PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. She's pretty, rich, confident, intelligent, and popular. I liked her instantly though, with her sardonic voice, kindness, and knack for getting in huge trouble while trying to cover up a little misdeed. She gets expelled from her current private school and shipped to boarding school in Boston.
At first, her new home isn't that bad. Just as Anne begins to settle in, her roommate is found dead in the woods. Worse, it seems like no one is really investigating. The school is determined to keep the murder as quiet as possible and deflect any attention from the other students. After all, the school has a safety rating to maintain and these are the children of important people. (It's a bit of corruption that sadly rings true.)
PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL reminded me of another YA debut that came out this year: ESCAPE THEORY by Margaux Froley. It's a good year for people who like mysteries set in boarding schools! This one is a lot funnier and less sad, because Anne has less of a personal connection to the victim. She only knew Isabelle for a week. However, her roommate was nice, and even if she wasn't, she deserves justice. Thus Anne begins investigating and finds out that too many people had a motive. There's a tangled web of blackmail, espionage, stalking, and teenaged hurt feelings.
There are two love interests: Anthony, Isabelle's hot-tempered brother and Brent, the school's king bee. I liked both boys and that the romantic storyline didn't overwhelm the mystery. It's more a setup for romantic tension to last throughout the Anne Dowling mystery series. The second, WICKED LITTLE SECRETS, comes out March 4, 2014 and I'm looking forward to it.
Mystery series live and die on the strength of their detective. Anne just might be my favorite girl sleuth since Jasmine Callahan of Michele Jaffe's Bad Kitty books. (Trust me, that's a massive compliment.) Her confidence is refreshing and her humor is spot on, which makes her narration a delight to read. At the same time, she has a tendency to rely too much on talking her way out of trouble and thus doesn't plan enough to keep from getting into trouble in the first place.
PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is the perfect summer read for mystery fans. It certainly won't make anyone unhappy that they aren't in school. I'm happy that there are more books coming because Anne is a great protagonist.