Author: Kara Taylor
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary YA
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Source: Print ARC from the publisher for review
Synopsis: In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.
Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn’t care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.
When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.
3.5/5 stars – Got off to a rough start, but I’m on board with this YA mystery series!
Books about rich white kids doing anything at all in a prep/boarding school tend to bore me. The Gossip Girl book I own? Couldn’t read more than 100 pages due to boredom. Still, YA mystery set in a boarding school with coverups and blackmail galore… Had to read it. HAD TO. Prep School Confidential needs a little more fact-checking and less mean girl blah blah blah, but it turned out to be a lot of fun! Not only that, but it gives us the set-up for another book that’s sure to be even better.
Anne isn’t always a good person (like when she’s acting like she’s so much better than other girls because they’re wearing ~skanky black skirts and she’s not), but once I got past her initial slut-shaming, it was easy to get swept up in her investigation thanks to her tenacious drive. She’s like those dogs that won’t let go of something once they bite into it and even when it’s made clear she’s on thin ice, she still won’t give up.
The two boys Anne gets into romantic entanglements with are okay and are far from perfect (in a good way), but neither one inspires any deep swoons. Prep School Confidential boasts a large cast and you’re bound to find SOMEONE you’ll like, but it’s easy to forget who’s who. A few times, I forgot if someone was on Anne’s side or if they were loyal to Alexis. Speaking of whom, Alexis is the root of another of my criticisms: the overdose of mean girl drama. The only mean girls I want anything to do with are the ones from the movie Mean Girls.
The mystery itself is top-notch with red herrings all around and all the trimmings of boarding school shenanigans like secret tunnels and secrets buried by the executives for the sake of the school’s reputation. There are enough good ones to make you question whodunnit up until the very end, and they may even make you question the characters with leading roles. Is the victim a sweetheart who made some mistakes that got her into fatal trouble or is Isabella a little more like a puppetmaster playing with the people around her? Maybe she’s a little of both. This angle doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it may be for the better. All the more room for the reader to decide!
A student named Matthew Weaver is said to have gone missing back in the 70s and Anne discovers this early on, but Isabella’s death takes over the book and he doesn’t get more than a few mentions. Until the end of the book, that is. Then it’s made clear book two of the series will be about Anne figuring out what really happened to him. Having proved she can write a compelling, suprising mystery, Taylor has me eagerly anticipating her next book.