Since the Twilight series blew right the eff up just under a decade ago, publishers have been scrambling to find the next supernatural saga to feed to salivating teens and hard-up soccer moms. The real insult in the situation was how atrociously written Stephenie Myer’s prude, deprived Mormon drivel is, but let’s not get me started on that tangent. The fact is, it’s triggered huge demand for more of the same. Hell, I’ve often wondered, “Why don’t I just write a sexy teen novel with some freaky stuff going on and rake in some cash?!”
But then you sit back and really think about it, you realize it’s hard to dream up a scenario, plot or paranormal creature that hasn’t been done to true death. Not that it stops the Stephenie Meyer wannabes of the world; we all know it’s hardly literary greatness that drives them.
But I like a good teen novel, and I especially like teen novels that would’ve satisfied my own reading urges some 15 years ago, so I thought I’d give The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant a shot when it was suggested to me by the lovely ladies at BenBella Books.
The book has all the fixins of a good teen saga:
1. mysterious, drowsy locale
2. inquiring, underdog protagonist
3. dreamboat just out of reach
4. slightly less dreamy dreamboat, who makes up for his shortcomings in enthusiasm
5. some seriously messed up shit percolating beneath the surface
After her mother dies, Anne Merchant’s father sends her to an elite, secretive, island school for disgustingly wealthy teens called Cania Christy. Pitted against each other like hungry dogs, each student is battling to be named Valedictorian, and most of them will stop at nothing to achieve just that. Naturally, Anne is a little confused by her classmates and their furious, seemingly blind ambition for the title.
The only pupil at Cania Christy from a middle class background, Anne begins to question why her father sent her there, and more importantly, how he afforded it. Her peers and the adults in charge make little effort to disguise the fact that she is an anomaly, an outsider who can’t know the full truth behind Cania and its inhabitants.
Curiosities mount and it becomes impossible for Anne to keep her questions to herself, and bit by bit, she unravels Cania’s tapestry of secrets to a cliffhanger revelation, which is where the book leaves off. Of course, along the way, she loses her marbles for the island’s resident aloof hunk and fights off the affections of another nice, handsome boy, whose simplicity naturally won’t do for our heroine. Girls never want the nice boy.
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a fun read, and author Joanna Wiebe has done a great job of harmonizing all the facets that make for a good young adult read. It’s written for teens in a way that’s not condescending or saccharine (ahem, Twilight). It’s accessible, moves at a great pace and delivers on those moments we all lived for in those days: a little thrill here, a rush there, and plenty of sexual tension.
I won’t lie, I’m more than looking forward to the January 2015 release of the second book in the V Trilogy, The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant!
For more about the series and its Canadian creator, Joanna Wiebe, check out her website: http://joannawiebefiction.com/