Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Secret Society Girl [2006]

After I read and enjoyed Rampant, and after following Diana Peterfreund's blog and learning about her path as an author, I decided the next logical step would be to go back and read Secret Society Girl, the first in her Ivy League series. I must confess that I know next to nothing about secret societies in general, and Yale secret societies such as Skull & Bones in particular (wasn't there some movie with Pacey from Dawson's Creek or something?), but that certainly didn't stop me from enjoying this tale of a literary magazine editor who finds herself unexpectedly "tapped" by the most exclusive society on the "Eli University" campus, here renamed "Rose & Grave." Amy Haskel is outspoken and career-focused, but she still feels like she doesn't quite belong with the few other women who are selected as the first female members ever to be inducted into Rose & Grave. The sudden change in Amy's life has her at odds with her (formerly BFF) roommate, keeping secrets from her sweet potential boyfriend, and also makes her unexpected allies with a circle of people she never would have otherwise known. Pledging to join a secret society, offering its members her "love and affection, everlasting loyalty, and undying fealty" turns out to have much more of an impact on Amy's life than she expected, especially when outraged and powerful alumni protest the decision to admit women by making Amy's life (and those of her new "brothers" and "sisters") as difficult as possible. Add that to boy confusion and post-college career angst, and you've got an action-packed series opener that had me eagerly ordering the second book through ILL.

Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:

I couldn't help thinking about the Gilmore Girls repeatedly as I read the book. Not so much the Life & Death Brigade as the whole Yale University setting, the Daily News, etc. Now that was an excellent TV show.

The book was much more about the problem of integrating women into an all-male world than I thought it would be, and less . . . Gossip Girl-y. I guess maybe it was the title that had me thrown off? Not that this wasn't a pleasant discovery, and I probably should have known better given the delicate handling of sex and gender politics in Rampant.

An interesting post by Peterfreund about the "New Adult" marketing niche that the Ivy League novels purportedly fit into. And follow-up here.

I always appreciate a well-drawn gay or lesbian character in any high school or college-centered novel. I've been reading too many YA books lately, in particular, who act as if the GLBT population doesn't exist at all.

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