Secret Society Girl
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Also by this author: For Darkness Shows the Stars, Rampant, Ascendant, Across a Star-Swept Sea, Omega City, Omega City: The Forbidden Fortress
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: July 18th 2006
Fans of Beautiful Disaster will devour Diana Peterfreund’s Ivy League novels—Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, Rites of Spring (Break), and Tap & Gown. At an elite university, Amy Haskel has been initiated into the country’s most notorious secret society. But in this power-hungry world where new blood is at the mercy of old money, hooking up with the wrong people could be fatal. 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Ok, caveat: These are some of my favorite books EVER.
Basically, if you like any combination of old-school college/university settings, secret societies, feminism, and really sexy romantic scenes, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be sold on this.
How it starts: Amy is a junior at elite Eli University (clearly modelled after Yale University, where Diana Peterfreund went to college). She’s got pretty solid GPA, a busy courseload that includes reading War and Peace, and she’s the editor of the school literary journal. She’s headed for Manhattan for a literary internship during the summer, and she’s about to be inducted into the literary secret society, Quill and Ink.
Most secret societies at Eli are for seniors only, so Amy is looking forward to networking and gaining references from her society. All of that is swept away when she receives an invitation to join Rose & Grave, the most elite secret society on campus – and the one that is supposedly for men only.
Intrigued, Amy decides to check out Rose & Grave, and finds a delightful group of overachievers like herself – in fact, she’s a little bit intimidated by the group she meets. She also finds out that a lot of people are really unhappy that there are a bunch of girls now in the society. So unhappy that they’re willing to figure out ways to cancel her internship, and make her life a living hell.
Oh yeah, there’s also this awesome friends-with-benefits situation that Amy gets herself into, a hot “Big Brother” who mentors Amy through the whole secret society thing, and a showdown of awesome proportions that even Katniss would feel tense about.
That’s a basic synopsis of the first book. But guess what? There are three more books! What happens in those? We see what happens after Amy’s junior year and how people are adjusting to Rose & Grave in its new co-ed capacity. There are a lot of secrets to uncover – does Rose & Grave really live up to its reputation as making Presidents out of many of its members? Are they really the most powerful group on campus? And what happens when they all go on Spring Break? What will Amy do when she graduates?
Ok, because this is a series, I can’t really write a review like I normally would, so I’m just going to do a Top Ten list of things that are awesome about this series (it IS Tuesday, after all!):
1. The fact that there are extra short stories written from the perspective of characters on Diana’s website, and they are free to read. After you’ve read the books, you will DEFINITELY want to check out2. The suspense. Guys, this book is thrilling. Everytime I read it, I get totally sucked into the secrets and the way that Amy thinks and tries to figure out what happened. This is not bubblegum or fluff – this is a page-turner that has you racing around campus (and other places) with Amy. Also, as you get further into the books, the stakes get way higher. Some of this was actually pretty scary – not in a supernatural way, but in a “this could have happened to me” kind of way.
3. The feminism and moral debates. Ok, so there are feminist ideas and there are morals that are questioned, but this is not a preachy book. Like I said, it’s a thrill ride, and Diana Peterfreund really makes you think about the issues at hand, like secrecy, privacy, the pranks they pull and the situations that characters get themselves into. That’s what’s amazing about these books – they are heart-pounding, but they are also perceptive and insightful about issues.
3. The guys. OMG, the guys! There are several love interests in these books, and several side characters who end up getting love interests. And they are all awesome in their own way, but there’s one that I can’t even talk about, who basically steals your heart without you realizing it. You’ll know it when it happens. And trust me, you won’t be able to get him out of your head – he’s like the dark version of Peeta. Amazing.
4. The university/college details. I went to a very conservative, male-centric university, so this all felt very familiar to me. That said, there are little moments in the Secret Society Girl series that I think are universal to anyone who’s been in college. Things like going to breakfast when you’re half asleep because you know they’re going to serve the best breakfast sandwiches then, or writing a paper throughout the night and sliding it under your professor’s office door just before you know they will get there, so your paper isn’t late. SSG is the ultimate in Reminiscing About College.
5. The secondary characters
. I sometimes find books frustrating when secondary, or even tertiary characters get passed over, or worse, become plot devices so that the story can move along. That doesn’t happen here. Every character, from Brandon to Felicity to Clarissa is well-defined and has a backstory. And a lot of interesting and unexpected things happen with the characters – friendships, romances, etc. Peterfreund never skims on these characters, and if a character goes away – trust me, he/she will probably be back and in a natural way that feels organic to the storyline. Also, some of the secondary characters are just AWESOME.
6. The little add-ins from Amy’s schoolwork, and the references to literature. I’m clearly a huge nerd, because I loved reading about Amy writing papers – you actually get to read some of them! – or Amy trying to get through War and Peace or discussing literary criticism. Honestly, you LEARN something from these books!
7. The secret society. Guys, these rituals are awesome – somewhat disturbing, but they are exactly what I imagine a secret society full of college students doing. And they weirdly made me wish I had a secret society – or group of friends – with whom I could share things that deeply. And who doesn’t love the perk of going away to a Florida island OWNED by your secret society for a private spring break retreat?
8. How things come full circle, or, the plotting. I mentioned already that this is a suspense-filled ride – but I didn’t mention how masterful the pacing and plotting are. Peterfreund doesn’t let up on the action. If you like Ally Carter’s twists and turns in her Gallagher Girls series, that’s what this is sort of like. Everything comes full circle, and loose ends are tied up in really smart and interesting ways. I love it when a book has me raving over its brilliance.
9. The love scenes
. Remember how I said this was New Adult, not Young Adult? There are serious love scenes. And by love scenes, I mean SEX scenes. They are scorchingly hot, and ridiculously well-written. By the way, there are also romantic scenes that aren’t sex scenes either – and those make me squee insanely (the shower stall scene from Rites of Spring (Break) is one of the hottest things ever, and let’s not talk about the scene in Tap & Gown when — tells — he loves her). Believe me when I say that this series boasts some of the sexiest scenes EVER.
10. The writing
. I haven’t mentioned this, but SSG is has one of the most pitch-perfect narrative voices I’ve read. Amy’s voice is not only a touch too intellectual for her own good (as it should be), but she’s also FUNNY. She’s got sass, wit and intelligence coming out of her ears. Every line that comes of out her mouth is hilarious and true to character – and when she’s serious and passionate, her words are amazing and convincing. The writing really works with the story in this case, and it’s subtle, but through the four books, you really watch her sort of “grow up” and figure out her voice and how she can use her strengths.
Sound like your thing? Check out the giveaway below – I’m feeling super-generous after my crazy birthday week, so I’m giving away an entire set of the Secret Society Girl books. That’s right, one reader will win them all: Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose, Rites of Spring (Break), AND Tap and Gown. Also, Diana will send over a couple of Rose & Grave tattoos for you – I have a couple, and they’re pretty sweet.
Open internationally, or wherever the Book Depository ships.
Because this is such a big giveaway, I’m keeping this open for two weeks. Go, sign up, and enjoy. Come back more times to get more entries. If you win, be sure and tell me what you think. =pa Rafflecopter giveaway