Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review:The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

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The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant 
by Joanna Wiebe
Publisher-BenBella Books
Released- Jan 14th 2014
Purchase- Amazon/ B & N


So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

My Thoughts: 
Wow, what a handful.
I don’t even know how many times I wanted to give up on this book, but as I kept reading, my pesky curiosity would keep me turning the pages till I figured out what the hell was going on. A big part of me was really glad I did since all the revelations turned out to be worth the frustration, exasperation and pure bewilderment of this novel, but man, what a freaken trip getting there.

Getting a fresh start at Cania Christy boarding school is just what Anne Merchant needs. After the death of her mother, Anne hasn’t been the same and having a mortician for a father doesn't usually pay the big bucks, but some how he got her in an expensive school on Wormwood IslandMaine, an Academy that only admits the best of the best. But once Anne gets to Cania Christy things go from strange to plain ol’crazy. Just exactly what kind of place did her father land her in...

... And that my friends, is the biggest question here and the biggest asset, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant has to offer. The mystery of Wormwood Island. There is a lot to process here since this book has got to be one of the most evasive and intricately connected storylines I read in a very long time. The sheer mystery alone will have readers curious and hell bent to try to figure out what going on. Once the big reveal happened and our protagonist finally gets in on the big secrets, I could see why Wiebe chose to be so deceptive. It’s actually very clever once I go back and lock the pieces together and intertwine the island, the village, the school, the students, the tuition and the crazy-ass Headmaster. The twist and turns really made this book standout and demand attention.

But wait, there’s more. I can’t leave out the Big V and PT. It all starts off with the obsessive competition all the students are racing for, the Big V, which is to win Valedictorian. Each student has a Guardian to oversee their progress academically but mostly making sure they are using their PT selection to the fullest. Prosperitas Thema is a moral quality statement that marks your strength and success in order to win the Big V. Strangely enough, Anne first quality selected is Seduction, but she actually went with her alternative PT, which was, Looking Closer. Why the first was even mention is beyond me since it was never really applied to the storyline except as a sexual advance by another character. The parents of the students also play a big role into the story; asking how far would you go for your child? 
Now, given that we don’t learn anything till almost near the end gave this book a huge info-dump making the beginning of the story hard to get through but the end of the book hard to put down. The pacing and flow feels way off, but was actually intentionally off balance to throw the reader and our main protag into a frenzy of questions with endless possibilities. It was difficult at times to wrap my head around, but I ended up really liking the ideas, concept and the paranormal twist that Joanna Wiebe created.

I wish I could say the same thing about the characters though. They were driving me insane. The one character that I did like was Anne. I liked that she can total handle her own and that she’s not afraid to ask questions or stand up for herself, which sadly she had to do a lot in this book. She lives with a housemother who treats her like a business deal, the over played mean girls don’t waste anytime harassing her simple cause they can and the Headmaster’s idea of a warm welcome were insults and sexual innuendo’s and this pretty much happens within the first few chapters. So be warned, it starts off a bit ridiculous but it does get better.
As for the rest of the characters, Ben and Pilot, I liked but I didn't. Ben acts cold and cruel towards Anne almost through the entire novel, but since he was trying to protect her, he’s easy to forgive. And as for Pilot, well, he was a good friend, the only friend that Anne had, but not everything is as it seems in this book. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
My biggest issue here was Teddy. This is one guy I just did not understand. His looks are less then desirable, and he has a creepy factor going on that makes me want to shutter just thinking about him. He’s pleasant and supportive one minute and hostile and demanding the next. I also didn't care for his ‘it would be an abuse of power’ comment, only to turn around and suggest otherwise. Sick. But what I don’t get the most about this guy is I'm still not sure if he's good or evil. Everything about him felt very inconsistent, damaged and wrong.
I also had a little issue with all the other sexual-attention used in this book, it was uncomfortable, tacky and gave the book an ick-factor that wasn't really necessary nor needed to get any points across.
And last but not least, the love story. I’m not sure if I can say there was any real romance in this book since the mystery pretty much took up the entire novel, but I will say that I loved the connection between Ben and Anne and who Ben turned out to be. I never saw that coming and thought it was a very sweet touch to the storyline and probably one of my favorite moments.

In a nut shell, I liked this book, but it was a struggle getting there. The writing is good, frustrating yes, but smart. The character drove me nuts, but even I have to admit, everything happens here for a reason and I liked that nothing is what it seems. The plot has a million twists and turns that made my head spin and made me feel like I was constantly missing something but when push comes to shove, this has a really great and creative story, and I’m curious enough to want to know what happens next. If you’re a fan of boarding school books, paranormal and crazy mystery then this may be a book you’d enjoy. It may not have always been easy to get through, but it was still worth the read.

Find the author:
Goodreads / Website                                3.5 Snowflakes

2 comments:

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  2. I read this book a few days ago. I'm very conflicted on my feelings toward it. On one hsnd, the syntax feels awkward and then present tense just feels out of place (though I mostly read and write in past tense, so that could be playing into my opinion). The author makes some weird slip ups, particularly involving race description. How in the world could Anne look at someone and know their specific ethnicity, even before they talk? In a way, Anne was a but Mary Sue but at the same time she was almost the inverse of a Mary Sue. I agree that the sexual stuff felt unecessary and too icky. I wasn't a big fan of the cliché mean girls, though I can understand given their PTS. I personally think Weibe has plans for Harper in future books, and if my hunch is right she's laid the ground work nicely. This book was truly a trip. It had me all over the place. It made me laugh so hard at points (amazing disses, dance battles, innuendo). It made me gross out at some points too. It made me go "awe!". At one point, it even made me tear up. Despite it's flaws (this book is definitely not perfect) the earth shattering plot makes up for the faults in full. It's crazy. This book starts off like a simple light teen drama, then jumps into a big heaping pile of insanity.

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