Publisher: BenBella Books.
Hardcover, 272 pages.
Release date: January 14th 2013.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.
One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in and why.
As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.
A deliciously dark debut brimming with unexpected twists and startling revelations, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe pits unconditional love with ruthless ambition and ponders the age old question: How far would you go to save the one you love?
When, two years after her mother’s death, Anne Merchant finds herself the new girl at Cania Christy – an exclusive boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens – she feels immediately out of place and far, far out of her comfort zone. She also finds herself instantly crushing on Ebenezer ‘Thank God he can shorten it to Ben’ Zin, a minty-eyed hottie whose complete indifference towards Anne occasionally goes so far as to border on rude. Whatever. Anne’s not the kind of girl to get sidetracked by a boy who’ll barely give her the time of day no matter how cute he may be. In any case, her Cania Christy schedule is far too jam-packed to spend a whole lot of time fixated on boys. Assigned a creepy (and deeply unattractive) guardian who watches her every move and assesses her every action in the race for the ‘Big V’ Anne soon realizes that Cania Christy is no ordinary boarding school. Instead, it’s one with its own particular and very peculiar set of customs and traditions. And, the ‘Big V’ – that’s the race to become valedictorian – an honor that all but one of the Cania students –Anne’s charmer-of-a-friend Pilot - would do just about anything to win.
Anne doesn’t really understand why being crowned valedictorian is so important. Hell, she doesn’t understand a whole lot at all about the mysterious ways of Cania Christy, but she does know one thing: she’ll do anything she can to be valedictorian and make her dad proud. After all, she’s no millionaire’s daughter and she knows her funeral director dad must have sacrificed a lot to win her a coveted place at Cania Christy. But there’s something else too; something about Cania Christy that just doesn’t seem quite right. Anne is smart and snarky, but she’s also highly inquisitive, and it’s this questioning nature that leads her to the assumption that Cania Christy is not all that it seems: something tells her that not only is this a school full of secrets, it’s also a school full of lies.
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is as ambitious as it is original and intriguing. This first book in the series has a whole lot going on, and while its myriad plot threads take a while to cohere and connect, the journey to enlightenment is a fun guessing game that throws up quite a few shocks and a whole lot of surprises. Anne Merchant is a boarding school paranormal, yes, but in a market somewhat saturated with books of the type, it offers something different. This is not your usual paranormal fare, that’s for sure. And, I should add, that Anne herself is no typical wishy-washy paranormal heroine. In a word, she’s fierce. She’s also funny. And she can poke fun at herself too, which is always refreshing to see.
While The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant isn’t flawless, it is an entertaining read that kept me hooked from start to finish. I liked that Joanna Wiebe dared to be different with this book, and I also liked the twist right at the end that got my mind working overtime and ensured that I would return for more tales from Anne’s crazy world.
Check back on Wednesday when Joanna Weibe will be visiting the blog to talk about her inspiration for The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant and you could win a copy of the book!