Saturday, February 15, 2014
Review: Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
Title: Secret Society Girl
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publishing Information: 293 pages; July 18, 2006 by Dell
Series: Secret Society Girl #1
Where I got it: E-book from the library
Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or . . . well, male. So when Amy is one of the first female students to receive the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?
Whisked off into an elaborate initiation rite, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life."
Main characters: 3.5/5
It wasn't hard to like Amy, partially because she was so similar to me. An English major currently in college with ties to a form of "secret societies" myself, I could relate to Amy right off the bat. I've heard some knocks on Amy because of her reactions to things, like choosing to drink to solve issues, but I'm sorry to say that I know a lot of college students who drink like this when they're upset, and so to me, it seemed completely realistic. One of my biggest pet peeves about Amy was her relationship with Brandon. The girl who refuses to have a relationship with the nice guy just gets me every time, especially with Amy since she has such a big tiff about people using each other later.
Secondary characters: 2/5
Malcolm was cute and sweet and I had big hopes of him and Amy ending up together until the big twist. I liked hearing everyone's reasons for deciding to join the society; how some people ended up joining for selfish reasons, others because other people pressured them into it, and some because they wanted to change things. I wish that there had been a little more depth on some characters like Odile, Demetria and Jennifer, but I found myself liking some of the other secondary characters. Lydia's character was surprisingly shallow and I would have liked to hear more about her experience.
Writing style: 4/5
Amy's voice was funny and witty, but I also loved Peterfreund's own writing style. The details were interesting rather than a chore to get through and the pace moved at a good clip. I loved the references to English major readings and qualities, like when Amy bullshits her way through her initial interview. I also enjoyed how Peterfreund broke up the writing with lists, conversations, etc. Peterfreund accurately describes how organizations can really be so much more than their ritual or their membership, but it's a part of being something bigger, and I liked how that aspect really shone through.
I loved hearing about the culture of the university and the secret societies, so similar to some aspects of my life and yet so different. Maybe the plot wasn't unique, but I've never read a book like this about secret societies. I loved the misunderstanding at the beginning where Amy believes she's interviewing for a different society. I did look up the inspiration for the Rose and Grave society, Yale's Skull and Bones society, and I noticed that a lot of things were taken directly from that society, such as the trust association, the founding information, etc.
Very satisfying ending. I loved the relationships that were building and changing, although there was definitely still loose ends for the next book to tie up. I also was thrilled that it didn't end with "true love"; instead Amy finds her own self-confidence and learns to stand up for herself with the help of the Diggers.
Best scene: Where Amy tells off the Patriarchs
Positives: Realistic and fascinating look into college secret societies, well-developed characters, entertaining writing style & humor,
Negatives: The fact that the society was a thinly-veiled version of Yale's Skull and Bones, some of the minor characters were one-dimensional, Amy's relationship with Brandon
Cover: I didn't like the preppy look of the cover; it narrowed the focus too much to a "Gossip Girl" type story when I think the novel was a lot deeper
Verdict: Ultimately, the secret society aspect ended up taking a backseat to some more universal themes of friendship, coming of age in college and realizing your own self-worth.
Rating: 6.8/10 (4 stars)