Four troubled teenagers study witchcraft, female rage, and revenge at a private girls high school on the outskirts of a seaside town in Britain.
When 16-year-old Emily Frost is found dead at Elm Hollow Academy, new girl Violet Taylor is thrilled to get a look at the body, which is clad in white and seated upright on a swing with its eyes open. At school, Violet and her three friends, Robin, Alex, and Grace, become the favorites of arts instructor Annabel, who adds classic stories of revengeful women throughout the ages to their secret lessons. Robin introduces Violet to shoplifting, marijuana, drugs, wine, and Tom, a university student. Tom rapes Violet, propelling the four girls into a ritualistic act intended to harm him. Dark woods, dead flowers, candles, a church graveyard, knives, a stolen vial of deadly nightshade, and other well-chosen details weave a subtle, persistent, and unmistakable creepiness into Violet's story. When the dean of students, Matthew Holmsworth, makes Violet his private research assistant, she discovers what he believes really happened to Emily. Violence, betrayal, and abandonment result. Violet is then forced to choose what kind of girl she is going to be and figure out how far she'll go to make sure "the cruel and rotten bliss" of her obsessive friendship with Robin never ends.
Murder and witchcraft mix with a heady cocktail of drugs, booze, and revenge in this elegant, pitch-perfect coming-of-age story.