Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: The Last Academy

THE LAST ACADEMY
Anne Applegate
Paranormal Young Adult
320 pages
Scholastic Point
Available now
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.


MY THOUGHTS
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.

Rating: 2.5/5
 

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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.

44 comments:

  1. Sometimes it is so scary how similar we think..... I was hoping for so much when reading The Last Academy but I ended up being frustrated and annoyed!

    Camden was way younger than 14 and her childish behavior made it impossible for us to connect. The romance with Marc made me cringe as there was no substance....

    One thing about the ending... as awesome as the end was, Marc didn't get closure and this I found really sad ..

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    1. Yes, you and I are pretty much the same person most of the time:) And I felt bad for Mark too, I was hoping we would get some more on him, especially since the book was fairly short.

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  2. Ehhh, not sure if I'm going to like this book. I need romance in the book and if the author can't give me that then I will just be disappointed. Thanks for sharing Jenny!

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    1. I liked Mark and their romance was sweet, I just couldn't quite believe in it for a number of reasons.

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  3. No no, I do not wanna spend 250 pages all frustrated

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    1. It's at least a quick 250 pages:)

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  4. This book is just not getting great reviews. From another review, as well as yours, I gathered that the MC is really, really young and childish. I think right now I'm in a period of my life where I rather read about NA characters who are the same age as me than really young. The romance doesn't feel organic enough for me to pull me in either so yup, I'm gonna pass this one.

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    1. She does read really young Siiri. She has some really cute moments, but overall I just felt old while reading her:)

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  5. I think that I would have a hard time too connecting with Camden's character, I have read books with young Mc's before like Rose from Confessions of an Angry Girl, but I was able to get into her mindset straight away, where it sounds like I would struggle to do that with Camden's character. I'm glad the last thirty or so pages made up for the lackluster start. I don't think this book would be for me, so thanks for giving me a heads up about it Jenny :)

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    1. Yes! I loved Rose, despite her young age I could still connect to her, but that didn't happen for me with Camden:(

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  6. Well another one bites the dust then. I was really interested in this story after seeing the blurb but then I started seeing some not so good reviews and I wasn't sure about it. Now I see that I'll give up. I hate when I can't connect with the character and I ruins a lot. Great review Jenny :)

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    1. Same. I read the blurb and was all YES PLEASE, but unfortunately this one just ending up not working all that well for me. The ending was really great though:)

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  7. When I first read the synopsis of this one I thought it sounded great and I was really looking forward to reading it. However, it doesn't seem to be garnering a whole lot of positive reviews, and now that I know about the young MC, I have a feeling this one isn't for me.

    Thanks for the great and informative review, Jenny!

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    1. I wish the blurb had mentioned how young she was, I likely would have passed on it then. Fourteen is a couple years younger than I like my MCs to be!

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  8. Sometimes, those younger characters can be really hard to connect with. I did my best to put the middle school years out of my head...until I taught them. Then they all came flooding back (AAHH!!). But immaturity is hard for me to read. And sadness about the romance!

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    1. Yeah, I was bummed about this one Mary! I just felt like an old woman while reading - shaking my head at their antics and such. And the story seemed a little all over the place until everything gets explained at the end.

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  9. The premises for this just sounds so good but I have seen so many negative reviews on it, it is really disappointing. I am sorry the characters were hard to connect to and seemed very immature. That makes any read a hard one.

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    1. I really wanted to like this one, and the way she wrapped up everything at the end was really well done, I just couldn't connect to the story prior to those last few chapters.

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  10. I think I'd struggle with this based on the age of Camden, as well. I'm not old, but I remember how I was when I was 14...and dang...how people understood me, I'll never know. It's an intriguing premise, but perhaps marketed towards the wrong audience? I appreciate the sincere review though, Jenny!

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    1. It's been a little while since I've actually read this one, so I can't remember all the details, but I think it likely would have worked better marketed toward younger readers. No sex, no drugs, mild drinking (I can't remember about the swearing, but I don't think there was much, if any), and a very young MC.

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  11. I was really disappointed with this book as you know, Jenny. I really struggled with it from the beginning, especially when connecting with the MC.
    From you review, it seems like I made the right decision not continuing the book because I would have been even more frustrated.
    Sorry this didn't work for you, Jenny! I hope your next book turns out to be better!

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    1. The first 3/4 of this book were a bit of a struggle Nick! I was pleased with the ending, but getting there was tedious for sure:)

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  12. I think that every review I have read for this one so far has mentioned how young the MC seems and that is really turning me off of this one. What I have gotten from the early reviews is that the dialogue will probably bother me and there won't be the connection that I am always looking for between the MC and I. I've written this one off my TBR and I'm happy to see that it should stay there. Great review!

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    1. I think I could have gotten past her young age if the relationships between the characters were more complex. I couldn't tell her friends apart, they all seemed identical in personality, and Mark just wasn't on page enough to be someone who made my heart beat faster. I had hoped for more:)

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  13. Thanks for the honest review. Sorry that this one was as compelling as you had hoped. I think it might be good for my middle school students though...they might enjoy the main character. I'll have to get a copy for my classroom library. Thanks for the honest review!

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    1. You're welcome! I think this book will definitely have an audience in younger readers, it was just a bit too young and all over the place for me.

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  14. I wonder if this is one of those YA books specifically written FOR YAs. The vast majority of YA books seem to appeal to multiple age groups, but every now and again, I stumble across a book that is geared toward YAs--to the point that it's off-putting for older readers.

    Bummer that this one didn't work out, Jenny. A good YA mystery (even of the paranormal nature) is not easy to find.

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  15. That's disappointing. it's hard to get younger YA right. Especially because the cover looks older YA to me. I know what you mean by having a character who feels young...that's makes it hard to read when you're 30 - when it's harder to go back in time to relate to the character.

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  16. It's a shame Camden's voice comes off so young; I definitely have a hard time relating to younger YA. It sounds like the supporting characters and relationships are a bit fuzzy and hard to connect with too. I was planning on giving this a try at some point, but I think I've read one too many reviews that make me think it would be a frustrating experience. Thanks for your thoughtful, honest review Jenny! :-)

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  17. I am glad I didn't get this one. It just didn't appeal to me. Dodged a bullet whew! It is interesting though that the end is what saves it because we both know more often than not that the end is what ruins it!

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  18. 320 pages is a long time to be frustrated. I really liked the premise but it's such a bummer to hear that the MC was immature and the romance was dull. I never understood why seniors dated freshmen. I still don't.

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  19. Darn, I loved the synopsis, and sadly we are seeing a slew of books where the heroine is really MG material. This one is going to be a pass for me, but maybe something my niece would enjoy. Thanks for your honest thoughts!

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  20. I wonder why the author decided to make Camden so young. I was very determined to read this because the cover and blurb seemed like my thing, but given her age, I know I wouldn't like it. She does sound amazing in some ways, but of course her relationships, both romantic and not, sound a bit underdeveloped.
    Unfortunately, this sounds too middle grade-ish for me, and I was very much looking forward to it.
    Ah, well.
    Fantastic review as usual, Jenny!

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  21. Oh I would probably make it to the end because I must finish a book a lot of the times, but I wonder if the frustration would have gotten to me? I keep thinking that even my mom wouldn't let me go out with seniors when I was a freshman (she trusted me a lot, but knew how many seniors I DID know! LOL so it became a rule). Don't really like the sound of the frustration so I do think I'll pass on this one, but loved the review!

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  22. Fourteen is just a little too young for me in YA. Even fifteen makes me fidget a little now... 16/17 or older is usually what I like. I'm particular like that! ;)

    Sorry to see that this one didn't quite do it for you, Jenny. The general consensus seems to be that this one isn't nearly as entertaining as the cover and blurb suggest, so I think I'm ready to skip it altogether. Thanks for the more than helpful review. :)

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  23. I was never keen on this one and off late, I've been finding that I need either very original or slightly older characters facing more mature events to keep my attention on YA. You always manage to find a positive spin to your reviews, Jenny, so to see a slightly more negative rating from you seals the deal on me not picking this one up. Thanks for your honesty, dear! :)

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  24. So excited to finally see your thoughts on this one! It looks like we definitely are on the same boat. The romance COULD have worked out in this book, but it just wasn't enough to be considered a positive thing in this book. I'm actually so thankful for that ending though, it surely saved the book! Wonderful review, Jenny, I'm glad I wasn't alone on this one!

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  25. I've only seen some pretty bad reviews for this one. You actually seemed to like it it more than the others. I just don't really think this is a book I would pick up. That's good that it at least had a good ending to it.

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  26. Noooo! I really want this one to be a good one. I love boarding school books. I'm not sure which discourages me more--the fact that the MC is 14 or the idea that the relationships lack depth. Now I have nothing to look forward to, Jenny. NOTHING. *throws self down on bed and sobs as thought the world is over*

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  27. Thanks for the review. I've read the summary of this but not sure I've seen anybody's thoughts as of yet. I love boarding school books but sounds like this is one I'd better skip; borders a little too much on the MG side for me to become invested in I think.

    -lauren

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  28. You're not really selling me on this one and my wallet thanks you! More like my bookshelves (and the floor and the desk) and my debit card thank you! Not that you didn't do a great job on the review. I think you wrote a great review, but maybe the book could have used a little pumping up before it was rolled out. Thanks for your honest opinion!

    Heather

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  29. Aw, it's too bad this one didn't live up to its potential. I'll be passing on it due to the young MC and the fact that the secondary characters aren't well developed. I think I'd find the romance unbelievable too because of the age difference.

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  30. This is the second review for this book that has been less than positive. I just don't have enough time in my life to waste it on a read like this, Jenny. Sorry you ended up doing just that. Thanks for the informative and helpful review. :)

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  31. This was a book I read 50 pages of, and then got fed up and skimmed. This review has my feelings exactly in it. Awesomely put (true) review :)

    Emily @ Counting in Bookcases

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