Things are not all roses at Fullbrook Academy, and jaded senior Jules Devereux knows that. She’s lived it–first hand, and now she’s made friends with the new kid, Jamie Baxter, who is going to have to find out the hard way. Sexist, disgusting traditions underwrite the school, the athletes run rampant, and this fictional take on the traditions of St Pauls Academy will leave you thinking about what it means to be a good friend and what you can do to speak up.
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.
Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.
Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.
When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.
As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?
I liked this book, let me say that first. However, I also really love boarding school books so this book already had one foot in the winning boat. I knew, also, going into this book that it was loosely based on St Paul’s academy and their tradition of Senior Send-Off (just google it) but I liked the way that Kiely did not make one of the obvious victims of this tradition the narrator. Instead, he gives us Jules and Jamie who both experience the danger and toxicity of the school in their own ways that better inform them, and the reader, on how this tradition permeates out. My biggest qualm with this book is that it did not introduce the “tradition” of the senior send-off, Winter ball pairing early enough. It needed to be made clear from the beginning that that was looming somewhere later in the book, because having that in our mind would have greatly informed what happened at the party that dominates that first half the book. I also would have liked more after the big incident at the Winter Ball to be unpacked and for us to see Jules and Jamie instead of basically get recaps from each of their points of view.
Overall though, I thought this was a well-written and timely book and will definitely resonate with readers across all ages.