Initial reaction: A solid 4.5 stars for this charming read. I think I could high five Anne Dowling. Great characters and overall great mystery. This is exactly the kind of book I love in YA.
Kara Taylor is certainly a new author for me to watch with her charming, funny and engrossing YA mystery series "Prep School Confidential." The story revolves around Anne Dowling, a high school student who used to be the queen bee at her old school, but was kicked out after an "accident" burned down a part of the institution. (Notably it was Anne and another boy's fault for trying to evade trouble.)
Having to leave New York for Boston, Anne arrives at her new school and mingles well enough with her classmates. But then her roommate's body is found outside the school after she spends one night with friends at a party. Then Anne figures that trouble seems to follow her everywhere she goes.
When the administration and groups around her fail to take more action surrounding Isabella's death, Anne takes on the challenge herself, determined to find what happened and why. But the results put Anne a little over her head, more than she bargained for in the mix of coverups, lies, betrayal, and murder.
It may all seem like serious business, but this is actually a very humored and engrossing read. One of the things that made it so charming for me personally was Anne's sharp voice and wit. I do not see that many self-aware and good humored YA protagonists in recent series, so this was a breath of fresh air as far as that was concerned. I laughed many times following Anne and her commentary for things. I was also invested in the larger cast of students at Wheatley Prep School.
The mystery, to my surprise, kept me guessing right up to the very end. It was engrossing and I believed the conclusions that Anne came to with each piece of evidence and information that she picks up in order to find Isabella's murderer. The environment is drawn well to follow her when she's snooping, and it almost gave me deja-vu vibes of what I liked in shows like Veronica Mars. The different layers of corruption that Anne finds at Wheatley is not only plausible, but interesting to follow in how both administrators, teachers, and students alike have their closely guarded secrets.
There is a bit of a romantic angle in this book that I'll admit I was invested in and found far more realistic than most books that attempt a triangle. I actually cared about the characters and saw their motivations more clearly, and that's probably what endeared me to the scenario more than other series of its type. The journey was fun, the characterizations were drawn well, the humor was right on point, and some of the situations were quite harrowing, enough to keep me reading on eagerly.
I would highly recommend giving "Prep School Confidential" a go if you like strong female narrators, great humor, a solid YA mystery, and just a great ride from beginning to end. I definitely look forward to reading more of this series in the future.
Overall score: 4.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin's Griffin.