This readable boarding school story feels quite familiar.
Charlotte is a relative nonentity at her exclusive New England boarding school, with a small circle of friends and an average existence. That all changes when a drunk Julia Buchanan throws up underneath her dorm window and Charlotte helps her. Part of a blatantly Kennedy-esque family, Julia is charming and witty, although the French phrases she flings about may irritate readers as much as they seem to exasperate Charlotte. But there is also a dark neediness to Julia, one that troubles Charlotte even as she becomes part of Julia’s world and family. Charlotte becomes Charlie, finding herself frequently invited to the Buchanan compound on Nantucket, given expensive gifts and even falling for Julia’s older brother, Sebastian. But the Buchanans are all haunted by the death of the family’s oldest daughter, Augustine. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about Augustine’s death and Julia’s involvement in it—a discovery that feels calculated and without surprise instead of the other way around—it ends her time in paradise. Combining elements of The Great Gatsby and Looking for Alaska (both conspicuously cited in the publicity), the novel doesn’t offer much that’s original. Yet Philpot constructs some interesting minor characters and has a fluid, easy style, one that would shine through with a story more her own.
Here’s hoping Philpot’s sophomore outing sees this promise realized. (Mystery. 14-18)