From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—Angela Cardenas's parents have had enough of her irresponsible and difficult behavior and, as a last resort, they send the teen to the Hidden Oak School for Girls, a boarding school in rural Colorado. There the girls are divided into two streams, those who can be rehabilitated—the gold thread, and those who can't—the purple thread. Gold thread girls get schooling and etiquette class, whereas purple thread girls are imprisoned underground. They brutally self-govern, are subjected to mistreatment, and resort to violence to survive. Instead of allowing herself to be convinced that she deserves the punishment she receives, Angela decides to find a way to close the school permanently. A romance with the son of a teacher and the discovery of mysterious deaths from when Hidden Oak was a boys' prep school add suspense; however, the plot becomes too muddled, with some holes, and the tension comes too late. Angela's character is complex and full of contradictions, but all of the adult characters are either vicious or clueless. The extended detail used to establish conditions at Hidden Oak is disproportionate to the quick resolution. The struggle and eventual triumph of the bad girls over the evil teachers makes for an intriguing conflict that many teens will appreciate; however, some may find the easy ending a disappointment. For more discussion of nature vs. nurture, suggest Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius
(Harcourt, 2007).—Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City
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“What the hell kind of school has a blindfold as standard issue?“ Angela Cardenas discovers that blindfolds are not the only odd things about Hidden Oak boarding school. Supposedly a last-stop chance for rehabilitating “dangerous” girls, the school has an agenda that is not necessarily what it advertises. After having their possessions and clothing taken from them and uniforms issued, the freshmen spend the first month isolated from the rest of campus. As the month draws to a close, girls start to disappear one by one. Those who are redeemable are sorted into the gold thread; the others, Angela later learns, are sorted into the purple thread and are living a “Lord of the Flies” existence with little adult intervention. In an effort to save her friends, Angela decides to be really bad in hopes of getting moved to purple thread. Teens might behave dangerously themselves to get their hands on this page-turner with its commentary on education. Angela cautions, “You’re totally playing into their power system.” Rebecca replies, “Isn’t that how all schools work?” Grades 8-11. --Cindy Dobrez