Top critical review
Sloppy, lazy writing (and WAY too many brackets)
Reviewed in Canada on January 6, 2022
Normally I don't post reviews but Amazon won't let me return this book so I'm annoyed and I'm going to vent it here.
I thought I would love this book because I love "dark academia" (The Secret History is one of my favorites), and it's about a group of university students attending some prestigious, secluded art school that inexplicably only teaches Shakespeare in their acting department, as if there aren't other playwrights...ok. Basically a degree from this school is useless then. And then a murder happens etc etc.
First off, this author should have co-credited Shakespeare as the author of this book because a good 40% of all the writing is just quotes from his plays. I guess it's not plagiarism when the writing is past its 100 year copyright timeframe...
Another thing she does that's super annoying is clarify everything with brackets as if the readers are too dense to understand the "clever" nuance of her writing. Alternatively, she uses brackets without any reason? Like she will bracket pieces of text even though they are not asides at all. Here are some examples:
1. "The Castle was crammed with people, some drinking, some dancing, sparkling in their party clothes. (The boys didn’t look too terribly different from usual—only better dressed, better groomed—but the girls were hardly recognizable. Night had fallen, and with it came short slinky dresses and dark mascara and satin lipstick, transforming them from mere girls to a coven of bewitching nocturnal creatures.)"
Bewitching nocturnal creatures?? Skuseeeme?? It's just lazy writing in my opinion. It also makes no sense because the girls are constantly being sexualized through the whole book but then in this description they're described as "mere girls"?
2. "Alexander proffered an imaginary blade (we didn’t have props yet) and tore the neck of his shirt open."
Yeah…we can guess they didn’t have any props…there’s no reason to include that bracketed part. Trust your reader!
3. “She’s right,” James said, blithely. “I’m sure-as-fuck not.” (Unlike the rest of us, who were all attracted to Meredith in some biological, unavoidable way, James seemed to find her overt sex appeal somehow repulsive.)
FIND A WAY TO SHOW THIS. Stop telling us! It’s lazy writing!
Instead of doing the work to develop characters or a deep sense of atmosphere, she just puts everything into bracketed asides as if that helps lol.
The characters are all one-dimensional tropes: the vixen, the waif, the gay one, the hot mysterious one, the jokester, etc. Like that is their personality. Also, all of the girls are "pick me"/"I'm quirky and not like other girls" girls, and the main character is SUCH a "nice guy". There's a lot of slut shaming and a disturbingly tone deaf depiction of an eating disorder.
They also all talk at each other in Shakespeare in full quotes because that's normal?
This is more of a nit-picky thing but the overall structure of the school made no sense to me. Each year, students get eliminated if they're not good enough to go to the next year, so by the final year there's literally 6 students...how does this school sustain itself financially?? It also doesn't seem like this school guarantees you any great acting career because the characters talk about how hard it is to get acting jobs...so what is the point of this school then? Also can you imagine going through/paying for 3 years of university only to be told you're not good enough to go to 4th year just because some acting coach didn't like your Othello?!?