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Secret Society Girl (Ivy League) Paperback – May 1, 2007
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Readers will cheer on the not-so-underdog as she faces disgruntled male alumni and finds that membership does indeed have privileges."—Tampa Tribune
"A fun, breezy, beach-perfect diversion … with a myriad of cultural and intellectual references to everything from Eyes Wide Shut to Aristotle's Poetics."—Winston Salem Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Amy Haskel is a junior at Eli (read: Yale) University. Her dream job appears to be working for Glamour, yet she poo-poos her upcoming "posh" summer internship working for a New York book publisher. To bulk up her resume, Amy works on the school literary magazine, as does Brandon Weare. Amy likes Brandon as a friend, and she'll sleep with him as the need arises, but she doesn't want anything more from him.
The story kicks off when Amy is tapped by Rose & Grave (read: Skull & Bones). Only problem is, Amy has no clue why she has been tapped. She is not uber-wealthy (although Amy doesn't seem too concerned about how to pay for Eli, so she's obviously not hurting for cash). She's not uber-smart (although Amy brags about getting into Eli early decision). She's not uber-hot (although Brandon and the class stud are both very warm for her form.) She's also not male. It's the last item that becomes a sticking point, as Rose & Grave (also known as the Diggers) has been a males-only society up to now. The patriarchs, or Digger alums, make a 20th century fuss over girl cooties infecting their precious "tomb" (even the real Skull & Bones first let women in over 15 years ago) and threaten Amy's internship (which she suddenly decides she really, really wants). Will Amy stay in Rose & Grave or go?
Hint: this is the start of a series. In case there is any doubt.
The main trouble with the book, aside from the predictability of the plot, is that Amy is amorphous. We have no idea what she truly wants, other than to someday see her name on a magazine masthead. She vacillates over Brandon. She vacillates over Rose & Grave. She originally decides to join the society just because Brandon tells her she thinks too much & she wants to prove him wrong, instead of actively choosing to belong through a deep motivation of her own.
We have no idea of where Amy comes from; a stereotypical mother pops up now and then to nag about Amy's sex life but what about siblings? Family background? Childhood friends? Aside from a brief mention of a high school prom date, Amy appears to have arrived on Eli's campus like Athena springing from Zeus's forehead, fully grown with no prior development.
Because we never really get to know Amy, we never really invest ourselves in her or her dilemmas. When she decides to be Brandon's girlfriend (again, because he wants it, not because she does), it feels icky instead of sweet, especially as she obviously knows she has a crush on someone else. If Amy were a more fully developed and dimensional character, it might have the poignancy the author seems to be striving for. As it is, Amy comes off as weak and anything but a heroine.
The same goes for Amy's wishy-washy approach to Rose & Grave. It's obvious that the author needed to come up with some conflict to keep the plot moving, but Amy's wisecracking, "I am woman, hear me roar" narration clashes wildly not only with the Brandon situation, but with Amy's continual crawling back to Rose & Grave despite being humiliated, fake-threatened with forced prostitution, and being told she is second choice. I'd like Amy a lot more if she told Rose & Grave where to stick their pin for once and for all, but then there would be no series.
It also doesn't help that all the characters sound alike, despite different socio-economic and regional backgrounds. Both Amy and fellow Digger Malcolm use British slang. Nearly all the female characters address each other as "girl" or "girlfriend." The Hollywood princess and the Park Avenue princess sound identical, despite growing up in very different circumstances. The only character with a distinctive voice is Jenny Santos, and that's because she barely speaks.
Since Amy is concerned about her GPA, here are the grades I've been able to find for her. Kirkus Reviews gave the plot a B, but the heroine and dialogue pulled the overall grade down to a C. The Washington Post gave the book a C-. I'm going to give it a C+ for effort. The result: SECRET SOCIETY GIRL has a GPA of 2.0, far below honor roll.
This book is okay. Some of the writing is humorous. But the story is boring. Rose & Grave gets into trouble with its alumni because the current members decide to bring in women. So the alumni cause trouble for the members. The members fight back. If you like books where the action is a boardroom argument with privileged people fighting to stay even more privileged, then you might like this.
Amy can be funny and her lists are cute. But Amy's actions don't make much sense. She spends most of the book not sure if she wants to be in Rose & Grave. They play mean and sexist practical jokes on her during initiation and they lie to her. So why does she fight to stay in a club that she isn't sure she even likes? It seems just because the club is prestigious, which doesn't say very good things about Amy, who also accepts help from the society to cheat on her final.
From the title of the book, I was expecting some intrigue or suspense, but there wasn't any. Also, it sounded like this would be a thinly veiled look at the real life Yale secret society Skull & Bones. But Rose & Grave comes off pretty much just like your everyday college fraternity. And you don't learn anything about what makes life special at an Ivy League school either. There is nothing new in this book about university life and fraternities, just the usual drinking and hooking up.
It's hard to get worked up about whether some wealthy college kids get to keep their clubhouse. The club is depicted as pretty much white male elitist & sexist which makes you wonder why any self-respecting female or even male would want to be a member in 2006.
This book is pretty much just for those who think social status is everything. But if you know there is more to life than where you went to college or what fraternity you belonged to, you will want to pass.
This was quite an enjoyable read as it was fast-paced, fun, and quite engaging. Initially, I was hesitant about the book as I was not sure if it would be too "teen" like but I was glad that it wasn't. Eventhough the main character Amy appeared indecisive and quick to judge, you can't but help root for her. I realized this was part of a series and I hope that the author would put more emphasis on the supporting/secondary characters so that the story would not be too one-dimensional. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was awkward to read and I somehow did not feel the connection between the main characters.