Monday, April 29, 2013

The Last Surprise

The Last Academy
By: Anne Applegate
Reported by: Julianna Helms
Source: ARC via Publisher (Thank you!)
Release date: April 30th, 2013 via Point/Scholastic

What is this prep school preparing them for?

Camden Fisher arrives at boarding school haunted by a falling-out with her best friend back home. But the manicured grounds of Lethe Academy are like nothing Cam has ever known. There are gorgeous, preppy boys wielding tennis rackets, and circles of girls with secrets to spare. Only . . . something is not quite right. One of Cam's new friends mysteriously disappears, but the teachers don't seem too concerned. Cam wakes up to strangers in her room, who then melt into the night. She is suddenly plagued by odd memories, and senses there might be something dark and terrible brewing. But what? The answer will leave Cam—and readers—stunned and breathless, in this thrilling debut novel.

-Summary from Goodreads
Pre-order: Mrs. Nelson's || Barnes & Noble || Amazon || Book Depository

First off, I should probably make the caveat that I'm not typically a fan of boarding school stories. But Scholastic was really kind in sending me this book, and it had a fun-sounding premise, so I figured... why not? 

Oh, why not indeed.

It should be mentioned that this book wasn't all bad. Anne Applegate captures the life of a boarding school quite well--although, I can't speak from experience, only logical deductions. But I like that Cam really develops her character throughout the novel. I also thought that the twist was one of the cleverest ones I've read in a long time.

Unfortunately, there isn't much other praise I can sing.

Alright, look: this is probably just a personal thing. But from the synopsis (and the first few chapters alone) I guessed the twist in this book. But I'm an avid Greek mythology fan, so perhaps I should've lowered my radar just a bit when factoring that in. It' still a great revelation, just... The mystery was the only thing going for me and, once I cracked it, I had to force myself to keep on reading. 

Also, gosh I know I'm so nitpicky, but the insta-love...

Cam could've thrived with her friends! But she's so obsessively in love with (highlight to see spoiler)Mark(spoiler over)--I know, I know, I understand the hormones and all. But her relationship with Mark plays such a major part in her coming to terms with what's happened to her, I just wish it wasn't so quickly skimmed over and instead developed more realistically, yanno?

It's not that I didn't like Cam. It's that her voice was too inconsistent. I know that the teenage years are a growing and changing time (see above GIF), but having your eighth grade character say "creeptastic" and- actually, why don't I just give you a quote? (It's sort of a "big" spoiler, though, if you get it. Highlight again to read.)

"There is haunting and there is visitation. The former involves your neediness and desire to be healed, and as I said, it damages. The latter involves your ability to deliver healing to the one you contact. A visitation is a gift to another that may damage you." 

-pg. 286 of the ARC, subject to change

How does Cam respond to this?

(spoiler alert)

"I sat there with my mouth hanging half open, until all the big words he'd used kind of filtered through and I thought I knew what he meant."

-pg. 287 of the ARC, subject to change
(spoiler over)

THAT, my friends, is probably my major issue with this book. The fact that it "dumbs down" the protagonist. Look, my cousin who's in third grade understood that sentence the guy said just fine. I really, really wish Cam wouldn't respond to everything with a "I'm new to this world and wow shiny what?"-type of attitude.

And the worst part is all the potential this book had. A boarding school full of intrigue? Prepping for something that is a new twist in an overfilled genre? Middle school protagonists? FRIENDSHIPS! :D And, from the beginning of the book, actual parents?

But to my deepest regret, none of those potentials were fulfilled.

Even the friendships. Read the first chapter and I dare you not to hate Lia. I literally was like this:

I felt so bad for Cam, but somehow in the end everything is just magically solved and it just depresses, depresses me, because there was potential for so much character growth and all that just fell incredibly flat and cliché. And though Cam became a better person at the end, I didn't really see the transformation occur--and I didn't see even a hint of development for so many other characters at all, even though they had a perfect opportunity to learn from their faults. Isn't that what makes a book triumphant? The beggar finding the hero inside?

Overall, this is one of the hardest reviews I've ever had to write. I'm sorry that it's not the best review I've ever written--this is one of those books that you just don't know how you feel about. Because there's so much potential and you sort of idolize that premise but the way it just flops breaks your heart.

Give this book a try, if you're into boarding school and Pretty Little Liars-esque stories.

But if my feelings are anything to judge off of, don't expect a phenomenal tale.
The Reviews News


  1. Aw . Sad day. But I can totally see where your coming from. I hate it when characters are dimness down. And to throw it in with an already predictable plot ? Just prep work for a let down. BUT appreciate your honestly !

    Michelle @ The Passionate Bookworm

    1. Thank you for commenting, Michelle! <3 I know, it sucks when books aren't the glorious, beautiful things we hope them to be! T.T But I hope that if you do read this book that you like it better than I did. :)


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