Paranormal Young Adult
Disclosure: Received from publisher for the purpose of a review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.
The synopsis for The Last Academy is one that has us entering into this debut full of greedy anticipation, wondering what secrets lurk beneath the mask of polite society perfection, but what it doesn’t prepare us for is the youthfulness of its heroine. Camden, while only fourteen, reads as a very young fourteen, making it difficult for older readers of YA fiction (like myself) to connect to her and her peers. Without that connection we find ourselves a bit antsy and fidgety, unable to settle in as neither characters nor mystery create that desirable pull that keeps us up late reading even though we know our bodies will stage a revolt in the morning for doing so.
Camden isn’t an unlikable young woman, she just fully embodies her young age, some of her internal commentary making us laugh but also just as often reminding us of how many years separate us. Her relationships with a handful of girls at the academy are extraordinarily strange, moments of friendship between them suddenly and jarringly deteriorating into petty teenage vitriol before coming back around to wary friendship once again. The other girls themselves are difficult to tell apart, their personalities superficial and so similar that we often lose track of which of the young women Camden’s actually speaking to at the time, leaving us just as confused character-wise as we are unsure about what is happening with the disappearances at Lethe.
There is a romance in the The Last Academy, but like Camden’s relationships with the girls, it lacks depth, our lips barely twitching when she and Mark are together instead of creasing our faces with the full-wattage grin we so desire. The age difference between she and Mark, while technically a rather insignificant four years (he’s a senior to her freshman), feels far greater given Camden’s aforementioned youthful countenance and the fact that a great deal of personal growth typically happens during those four years, thereby making their "love" a bit off-putting rather than sweet. Mark himself is cute and an all-around good guy, but it’s hard to believe in his feelings for Camden both due in part to the age difference as well as the fact that he pops up randomly and simply isn’t on page long enough for us to learn anything real about him.
The highlight and saving grace for this read is the concluding thirty or so pages where all the loose threads that had been floating aimlessly throughout are nicely tied together with a surprising twist, one we begin to guess based on the hints we’re given, but don’t understand in full until Ms. Applegate reveals all. While much of the story is a struggle, we do leave it on a high note, able to forgive and forget some of the flaws we spent the first 250 pages frustrated with as we find a bit of contentment in an ending that brings everything full circle.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review, but my thoughts are my own and were not influenced in any way.