Grace Foster is a high school girl living in San Diego whose parents die suddenly. She is shipped off to a remote part of Alaska where her Uncle Finn runs a boarding school and her cousin Macy is a student. The school looks like quite the spooky, castle-y, place, with dramatic exterior and gothic interiors. While her uncle and cousin are loving and eager to help her, Grace quickly discerns there’s a lot of mystery about the place and her fellow students. This could be because it is a school for witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires and gargoyles, all of whom are recalibrating after a recent horrific evil vs. good battle on the grounds. Oh, but I am getting ahead of myself! It takes fully a week’s time for Grace to learn all this, as well as to dodge several attempts on her life, become the girlfriend of the school’s hottie, and somehow think she is just the person to dispense advice and counsel to all her fellow students.
Grace and her cousin Macy seem otherwise like pretty normal teenage girls, interested in boys, cosmetics, clothes, Pop-Tarts, and chocolate. It takes until the last few pages to find out why Grace is not an outlier in this “school for monsters,” but is one herself.
The author can certainly tell a story. The plot moves along and is involved, peopled with requisite characters who are reasonably drawn. Chapters are short and lead into each other effectively. Action sequences are effective. Locales are interesting. The story is not completely unoriginal, but older readers will certainly recognize elements from other sources, such as the TWILIGHT books, the “Lost” television series, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, etc.
The book is long–about 550 pages. Tacked on to the end are another 20 pages or so that re-tell earlier chapters from another character’s point of view. This indicates to me the author was conflicted about her organization, or else she was so enthralled with her work she couldn’t bear to leave any of it out. This was really unnecessary and unworthy of her demonstrated skill. While there is a sort-of-conclusion to this story, it plainly is set up for one or more sequels.
There is a great deal of coarse language, although the religious profanity doesn’t stray beyond “Oh God” or “God.” (Do young women today really find it romantic to hear their gorgeous idols’ liberal use of the F word?) The author describes sexual attraction between Grace and her vampire boyfriend but does not get explicit. She does, however, wax passionately about Grace’s response to her BF’s draining her blood as kind of a substitute sex. There is a lot of monster-violence.
If you’re looking for a meaningful exploration of YA themes and serious characters, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a long, romantic, superficial romp in a fantastical world, the author delivers. It’s on the order of a PG 13-rated horror movie for teens, and, indeed, Mr. Google tells me it has been optioned by Universal.
I wouldn’t buy this as a gift for any young reader I cared about, but I wouldn’t roll my eyes if I caught others reading it. Maybe. We don’t all have to be reading MOBY DICK.
Categories: Books with No Objectionable Content, Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, LGBTQIA, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Supernatural/Occult, Violence, Wizarding and Magic