High school English teacher Alex Witt jumps from the frying pan into the fire when she takes a job at Stonebridge Academy, a Vermont boarding school.
Alex doesn’t love teaching, but it’s a living, and she’s hoping for a new start at Stonebridge after a debacle sent her packing from her last job. Dean Gregory Stinson, a friend of Alex’s famous author father, Len Wilde, is happy to give her a place on staff, but a bait and switch has her teaching creative writing instead of English. Alex isn’t thrilled but settles into getting to know her class. Her initiation isn’t easy: Someone leaves a dead rat in her desk, and strange, vaguely threatening notes keep appearing at her barely livable cottage. Weeding out the good eggs from the troublemakers isn’t easy, but Alex gives it the college try and even makes a few (maybe) friends among the staff. When a student named Gemma Russo makes Alex aware of an exclusive online forum called the Darkroom, where Stonebridge boys post photos and text about their sexual exploits and girls are vigorously scored, Alex can’t ignore what’s happening, but she’s not eager to put herself out there in the face of adult enablers and vicious boys who will do anything to keep their toxic traditions alive. Luckily, Gemma is quietly recruiting an army to take the nasty little cabal down, and Alex offers guidance, never guessing just how far things might go. In 2009, when this is set, the term “boys will be boys” wasn’t yet being truly challenged as an acceptable explanation for entitled, misogynistic male behavior, and questions of consent weren’t at the forefront. Stonebridge is a perfect example of this kind of dysfunctional, entrenched culture. Lutz (The Passenger, 2016, etc.) draws on the droll humor and idiosyncratic characterizations that make her Spellman novels so appealing, and just about no one is quite who they seem. But kindness and decency do manifest in surprising places, revealed through the alternating narratives of Alex, Gemma, and others.
An offbeat, darkly witty pre–#MeToo revenge tale. The patriarchy doesn’t stand a chance.