The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to NetGalley, and a little bit of patience, I received an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Anne Merchant is a sixteen year old girl who has spent her entire life in one of the richest neighborhoods in the U.S., Atherton, CA. Unlike her extremely wealthy neighbors, Anne grew up in a modest environment, having lived in an apartment above her father's mortuary.
At the age of fourteen, Anne's mother died. Unable to deal with her mother's death over the past two years, Anne is sent to a boarding school located on a remote island in Maine. She desperately hopes not only to fit in at her new school, but also to graduate as valedictorian in order to gain a scholarship to Brown University. But competition to be valedictorian at Cania Christy, Anne's new school, is so fierce that students who want to be valedictorian are required to declare what amounts to a personal thesis statement by which they must live and breathe for the next two years. How well they fulfill this declaration will weigh greatly upon the faculty's decision on who gets to be valedictorian.
At least, that's what Anne thinks. But she--and thus the reader--is in for a big surprise. What starts out seeming like a struggle for identity for a teenager coping with the loss of her mother turns into an underground society of the world's wealthiest people making deals with the Devil himself.
This book is Wiebe's debut novel, and I think she does a pretty good job of integrating several different genres into one YA book. This book has a lot of romance, mystery, and fantasy that keeps it moving at a fast pace.
It isn't easy to pull off several different genres in one book, with the many plots and subplots, but Wiebe does a good job of tying up all the loose ends by the conclusion of the book, except for one -- Anne's relationship with her mother. Anne's recollections of her mother were mostly positive throughout the book, until nearing the end, which leaves the reader wondering what really happened when her mother died. This question isn't answered in this first book. On the other hand, it is going to be a series and the question will undoubtedly be addressed in following books in this series.
My rating is 4.5 stars. I didn't feel comfortable giving it 5 stars because I felt some parts of the books, particularly the ones dealing with faculty/student relationships, might have been handled too lightly.
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