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Genre: Mysteries/Thrillers (Dark Academia)
My rating: 4/5 stars
Penguin Random House had a book recommendation session recently on Twitter, so I tweeted I want to read a dark academia novel set at college. They tweeted back this book as their rec, so I went ahead and borrowed it from my library.
This could’ve been a 5 star read if the characters weren’t vapid and stupid. Yeah, the majority of 18 -21 year olds do stupid stuff like get drunk, do drugs, and hookup (according to Western media) but I find that trope overused and kind of insulting. I’m not trying to say I’m special but does EVERY “edgy” or rebellious person HAVE to participate in harmful acts in order to learn about themselves, especially if they went through something bad or traumatic? Malin HAS to participate in these acts because her stupid friends pressure her into it (and it doesn’t help that the student culture at their college encourages it) when she could’ve told them to shut up and leave, but no! She’s under duress! insert sarcastic voice Peer pressure is real but I would’ve loved to read at least ONE scene where she stands up for herself! Her “friends” are annoying; I wished she forgot about them and searched for one(‘s) who aren’t self-destructive instead of staying with them. My other issue is that Malin’s described as seductive – but she’s really not. She doesn’t have a secret she needs to keep in order to prevent herself and friends from unraveling, as the synopsis states. This is basically a story where we follow her and her friends through their past troubles and how they use that to keep themselves “sane” through their lies and gaslighting.
I’ll say the twist at the end is unexpected, which is good writing-wise. The writing overall is excellent – no boring parts or overly descriptive language. The power dynamic twist in the student-teacher relationship is another way Brockman kept this story fresh and engaging (although the student didn’t explain why she did what she did to her professor, which kinda ruined that part). Her description of Hawthorne College’s campus drew me into the New England collegiate atmosphere, reminding me of my college days (but I didn’t attend a college like Hawthorne’s nor is it located in New England).
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In her first weeks at Hawthorne College, Malin is swept up into a tight-knit circle that will stick together through all four years. There’s Gemma, an insecure theater major from London; John, a tall, handsome, and wealthy New Englander; Max, John’s cousin and a shy pre-med major; Khaled, a wise-cracking prince from Abu Dhabi; and Ruby, a beautiful art history major. But Malin isn’t quite like the rest of her friends. She’s an expert at hiding her troubling past. She acts as if she is concerned with the preoccupations of those around her – boys, partying – all while using her extraordinary insight to detect their deepest vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
By Senior Day, on the cusp of graduation, Malin’s secrets – and those of her friends – are revealed. While she scrambles to maintain her artfully curated image, her missteps set in motion a devastating chain of events that ends in a murder. And as their fragile relationships hang in the balance and close alliances start shifting, Malin will test the limits of what she’s capable of to stop the truth from coming out.