Review: Prep School Confidential

Maybe it’s because I think being a career student would be about the raddest thing ever, or maybe it’s just that I miss my high school uniform complete with kilt and knee socks. Whatever it is, I have a serious love for boarding school set books. Whether it’s Harry Potter or Anna and the French Kiss, I really can’t get enough. So when I heard about Kara Taylor’s Prep School Confidential, a murder mystery set at a just-outside Boston boarding school, I was all on board. In keeping with this month’s theme of NEW VOYAGES, I figure a story with an MC shipped off to boarding school is pretty fitting. But first, let’s take a peek at the synopsis:

"In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn't care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder."  (From Goodreads)

Set aside the whole Gossip Girl comparison for a moment, because I know how off-putting that might be to some of you. Sure our plucky protag lands herself at a prestigious prep school by way of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and sure there are echoes of Blair Waldorf from time to time, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Anne, our MC, was not immediately likeable, but her unwavering dedication to finding her outsider roommate’s murderer and her hesitance to simply join the ranks of the pretty, rich, and popular endeared her to me as the story progressed. Anne’s transition to more likeable character didn’t have her miraculously turning good girl on us. Quite the contrary. Despite ending up at the Wheatley School for bad behavior, she never once sheds her propensity for flouting the rules. Instead, she uses this to her advantage to find Isabella’s killer. From B&E to hacking school files, nothing is off limits. I kind of loved all of the cloak and dagger.

For those of you who like the smooch, never fear, there are smooches to be had here. The romance does fall toward the lighter side, but I was actually okay with that. Too much swoon might have felt a bit out of place when you consider the plot. (Trying to solve your friend’s murder kinda trumps making out, don’t you think?) As the synopsis above implies, there is not one but two likely suspects for leading man in Anne’s life. Both fellas have a certain appeal, perhaps owing to the fact that they are total opposites. There’s enough swoon to keep the swooners happy, but enough focus on the mystery to keep the non-swooners reading as well.

Which leads me to the most compelling element of this story: the murder mystery itself. There were as many plausible suspects as there were dollars in these folks’ bank accounts. A small handful of subplots tied in with the mystery keep the reader guessing. I had my suspicions, sure, but I wouldn’t say I knew for certain who the perp was from the get-go. There was enough distraction mixed in to cast shadows on a number of other characters, which is as it should be. I love a good mystery and Prep School Confidential definitely delivered.

Remember those little subplots I mentioned? Well, some of them aren’t tied up all neat and tidy by the book’s conclusion. You know what that means: We get a second Anne Dowling book (Wicked Little Secrets - March 2014) which picks up immediately after this one finishes! If you like boarding schools, snarky heroines, and a heaping helping of mystery, you should give Prep School Confidential a read.