The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant: Book One of the V Trilogy by Joanna Wiebe
I had this book on my wish list for quite some time and it wasn't until I had a handful of paper-bounds that I wanted that I revisited it and found it at a bargain price for the hard copy. I already knew that this was going to be a bit away from my usual read, but I had read the sample and that had hooked me. Based on some other peoples responses I'd say read the sample first. The book itself is quite good despite the impression that it holds onto a number of tropes. Tropes are not really cliche's although I suppose some tired readers like to put them there.
This book is what you would get if you took and put the movies My Girl, Sixth Sense, and Ghost all together. Add a bit of the chatty nature of one Anne of Green Gables and that about sums it up. I liked all of the above so there is little doubt that this book entertained me. I've also probably given away too much just in putting all these together.
Anne has arrived at new school on a somewhat secluded island. This comes after she lost her mother, who might have committed suicide and though Anne's father is a mortician Anne is having trouble dealing with this death. But Anne has a somewhat stranger side; she admits to having kissed the corpse of a handsome, but dead, teen. And now Anne is not sure if this school, which seems to be exclusive in many ways, might in fact be more of a punishment than any thing else. She has no idea how her father can afford it and the arrangement of her life near the campus is getting stranger for everything she discovers as she goes to orientation.
The island the school is on is divided by a line where she's been told there is a strict rule that the locals don't cross over to the school and the students don't cross over to the locals. Of course that has to be the first rule for Anne to break. This has eventual tragic consequences but it is necessary to drive the plot of the story.
The school, Cania Christy, is really strange. Every student is competing to be Valedictorian of their class (year). Well almost everyone except for Pilot Stone who claims he's not trying for anything outstanding. Then there is Ben who is a mystery, but then his father is part of the faculty. Both boys take a shine to her, Pilot is friendly while Ben's air of mystery frustrates her more than anything else. All of the girls in a specific clic seem to be members of a familiar trope but Joanna Wiebe skillfully turns many of the tropes on end by the time she begins to reveal the true plot to the story.
Anne does not live on campus, another mystery, she lives with a woman named Gigi Malone. This puts Anne close to the edge of the limits or boundary and drives her into breaking the rules. The school also has a thing it calls PT which is a specific talent that the students declare that they are then graded upon how well they use the talent. The choices Anne has are puzzling and very disturbingly odd. She also gets Teddy, the person assigned to her to keep tabs of her and her progress on her PT. Teddy, it would seem, will also be spending time at the Malone house. Teddy is a rather annoying and sometimes lascivious young man.
The first half of the book builds the suspense of strange and eventually sinister things while Anne's prattling keeps the reader off guard enough to be distracted from adding too many things together .
Eventually when the gloves come off there are things we find out about Anne that begin to move the pieces all into place until the reader begins to wonder just where Joanna Wiebe is taking them in this ever darkening vision.
This is written somewhat toward the YA but I think that anyone interested in Fantasy, suspense and a bit of horror will find it entertaining unless they are easily annoyed by the mix of all the different tropes. I really think that it's necessary to read all the way to the end so that the reader can see what Joanna does with a few of those tropes to throw them on their ears.
I really enjoyed it and even though I now have to wait for the next book to come out, it was well worth the read for me.
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