Synopsis: In 1996, Josephine Grey and Freya Seymour are best friends and on the brink of great success. Both are students at the elite private school Greenwood Hall and Josephine, the daughter of the advisor to the Prime Minister, is heading for everything she has ever worked for: Head Girl, Oxford, the demons of her mother finally abated once and for all. But in 2014, Josephine is hiding in Jordan — and has been for eighteen years since those catastrophic events in her last year at school.
This book won’t be for everyone, and neither will the characters.
The story is told over two different timelines; one in 1996 where Josephine and Freya experienced something horrible “that night”, and one in 2014 as Josephine is haunted by her past. The author doesn’t actually reveal what happened to the girls to destroy their friendship until the last 10% of the book which for me killed the suspense a little. You can’t exactly predict what happened to them, but what did happen is probably one of many things a reader will consider for a moment or two before moving on.
The characters are pretty ugly towards each other and it’s easy to lose empathy for them. There’s nothing worse than a main character who treats her friends like dirt and justifies it. That said, Josephine’s mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and Josephine herself spends a lot of time wondering if she is like her. This makes for a perspective that I’ve never actually read before. A lot of Young Adult (this is not YA btw) novels have characters simply go “crazy” or start experiencing hallucinations but this book tackles a real mental illness and I thought that was quite well done.
That said, the main character is a little one-note. She doesn’t want to talk about “that night” with the friend, Freya, who she went through it with, in fear of becoming crazy or jeopardizing her academic future. In 1996 she denies it. In 2014 she denies it. Her voice and perspective don’t change over 18 years and I think this might bother some readers, like it did me. Josephine never develops, she just comes to realizations and makes big leaps in thought that have little logical support behind them.
The boarding school thing is what attracted me to this book, like many others I’m sure. Throw in a dark plot and you’ve got me. I absolutely hated the school though. The headmistress put her school’s reputation above the students and that annoyed the crap out of me because I know it probable happens in the real world. I kind of have a thing for people successfully sabotaging other people so I enjoyed the boarding school drama at least. This was also a British boarding school so a lot of the terminology like “exeat” was lost on me but hey.
So not for everyone, but a quickish read that was still enjoyable, and a solid debut for Rebecca Thornton.
3.5 Ships- I liked it