Deft, page-turning, and fresh as the latest college admissions gossip.

ADMISSION

Ripped from the headlines of the 2019 Varsity Blues admissions scandal.

Seventeen-year-old Chloe Berringer is the wealthy, white daughter of Joy Fields, beloved TV sitcom star. An indifferent student, Chloe attends private school and is stunned by the revelation that her entire application was doctored. Chloe wrestles with guilt, shame, anger, brutal social media responses, and frayed family relationships following the revelation of her parents’ cheating and bribery. The intersections of race, class, and privilege are explored primarily through Chloe’s relationship with her best friend, Shola, a Nigerian American girl on scholarship at the school. The chapters alternate between the present day, beginning when her mother is arrested, and the point leading up to the arrest, starting three weeks into her senior year. Knowing that there were dozens of real-life students coping with similar crimes and the deep betrayal of their trust in their parents makes Chloe’s tale both heartbreaking and thought-provoking. Believable subplots focus on her love interest (a biracial Asian Indian/white boy), undocumented immigrants (through Chloe’s mentoring of a young El Salvadoran boy), and the pain of drug addiction (through her older half brother). While not entirely one-dimensional, supporting characters who do not share Chloe's racial and financial privilege sometimes seem to be present as devices to support her awakening.

Deft, page-turning, and fresh as the latest college admissions gossip. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984893-62-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An enticing new treat for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Karen McManus.

HOW WE FALL APART

When Sinclair Prep’s top student winds up dead, everyone suspects her ex–best friends, whose secrets are about to be unveiled by an anonymous messenger.

Surrounded by wealthy peers, Nancy Luo is a scholarship student at the prestigious Richard Sinclair Preparatory School and a second-generation immigrant determined to repay her parents for their sacrifices with academic success. But it’s impossible to outrank Jamie Ruan, whose brutal competitiveness leads her to do whatever it takes to come out on top, including hurting Nancy, her friend of over a decade. After her dad is imprisoned for embezzlement, Jamie goes missing and then is shockingly pronounced dead by someone with the username The Proctor on the gossip app Tip Tap. The Proctor identifies four potential suspects among the student body: Nancy, Akil Patel, Krystal Choi, and Alexander Lin. All were former friends of Jamie’s, each one has a secret, and all of them, including Jamie, have been haunted by The Incident, which they’ve kept buried since freshman year. This standout prep school murder mystery features a predominantly Asian American cast that varies in ethnicity and socio-economic background. It honestly depicts the psychological struggles of overachieving students, especially those arising from parental pressure. The truth of The Proctor’s identity might strain credulity, but careful pacing and a tantalizing cliffhanger ending will leave readers thirsting for more.

An enticing new treat for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Karen McManus. (Mystery. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0397-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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