A smart, engaging heroine and gripping, suspenseful plot trump this series opener’s all-too-predictable romance.
Angry and upset over the loss of her brother, Christopher, Allie’s vandalism gets her expelled from school—again. Her exasperated parents pack her off to Cimmeria Academy, a boarding school in the remote English countryside. Puzzlingly, her classmates aren’t troubled youth like Allie but the gifted offspring of wealthy families educated at Cimmeria for generations. Everyone, especially Allie, wonders why she’s there—and why the school’s hottest guys are smitten with her: smooth, uber-male Sylvain and smoldering, bad-boy Carter. Although readers can plot the triangle’s romantic trajectory early on, other narrative twists and turns remain pleasurably unpredictable. Cimmeria’s as much an enigma as its students. They’re not to enter the woods after dark; computers and cellphones are forbidden. A few, Sylvain and Carter included, attend the mysterious Night School but refuse to discuss it. Even Allie’s best friend, Jo, keeps secrets from her. Frustratingly, whenever love or attraction is in the air, Alllie’s gutsy leadership dissolves into old-fashioned passivity (somewhere between Bella and Katniss on the heroine-autonomy spectrum). But when the summer ball ends horrifically, Allie’s ready to take action.
Hints of tantalizing plot twists to come will have readers panting for the next installment. (Romantic thriller. 14 & up)