Book Review: Academy Girls

The final book I finished on my drive up to New York! I’m quite thankful that I have a friend who was willing to drive me and my dog up to our new apartment, that also refuses to let anyone else drive. It’s the book I was in the middle of when we started the drive (I think I was around 40% in?) I had started this book last time I was in New York, read a few pages during the rush move, and I’m glad to be done with it.

I originally got this as an ARC book from NetGalley, but I think I lucked out by getting it only a few days before it was released. The summary of the book intrigued me, as well as the fact that I’ll pretty much read anything involving a private school (NANOWRIMO RESEARCH!!)

Academy Girls by Nora Carroll
Published September 2015

moose-mdmoose-mdmoose-md 2/5 Moose

Summary

Jane Milton is a recently divorced and newly debt writer with a teenage son. Her husband is now in jail for white collar crimes, and Jane spends literally her last dollar getting to her former private high school, Grove Academy. Prior to her husband’s arrest, Jane doesn’t seem to work or anything, though she did at one point write a book. The headmistress makes it abundantly clear that her job is strictly as a favor to a former Grove girl, but that she is certainly not qualified for the position. Jane is told upfront to take it easy on the students and essentially keep her head down and press forward. Her co-workers include past students, including Abby, the girl she hated and Josh, the guy she always had a crush on. Jane is pressured to help a student get a novel published by graduation in order to help her get into Yale. As Jane receives chapters from the student, the story sounds eerily familiar to her own secrets.

The book is also told in flashbacks to Jane’s senior year with her best friends Lissa and Kat. All three girls are superficial friends at best, viewing each other as the major competition. They believe that their new English teacher, Miss Pymstead, is responsible for the unsolved murder of a headmaster from when their parents were kids. As they delve further into the mysterious murder, recording all of their findings, the girls are met with tragedy at multiple turns.  The notebook recording all their thoughts and notions goes missing one day, until Jane’s student’s chapters start popping up.

Thoughts

I should have been weary when I read the last name “Milton” and the obsession with an English teacher. But the premises of the book sounded fascinating. Murder in a private school? Unsolved many years later? Yes please! This is one of the few non-YA books I’ve read this year, so I had high hopes.

Everyone in this book has way too much love for Emily Dickinson. Now, I like Emily Dickinson…her poetry makes sense to me more than others (I confess, I really am not a poetry fan). The whole book is written as bleak and grey as a Northeastern winter. I have a hard time liking any of the characters at all. They’re all too self absorbed and too irritating.

I’m also not sure this book has any resolution. It’s not like Gone Girl, where I felt like the author just didn’t know how to end the book. It just….fizzles. Jane doesn’t seem to grow at all, though apparently she kind of does? The love interest is incredibly forced then fizzled. Everything just… no release. Not even sure there is that much tension either.

Conclusion

I don’t know anything about the author, but from this book, I just felt like she was trying too hard. Maybe she was also an English major who wanted to show off what she knows (we all want to do that. It’s the English major way!) I fought to finish it because it was my first ARC. It’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read, but I’m not even sure I recommend it.

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