YA Review: Tradition

Title: Tradition
Author: Brendan Kiely
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

This is a story about sexual assault at a prestigious US boarding school, and the barriers to reporting and consequences when the abusers are protected by money and reputation. The author could have chosen to sensationalise the subject, or give us a dramatic, terrifying event to examine, but instead the abuse, and the unofficial traditions that enable the abuse, are shown quietly and in glimpses, with respect for the characters involved.

The story is told from two points of view. Jules has had enough of the sexist attitudes of the Fullbrook Academy (in her words “a boys’ school, and they accept girls here too”). She has one year left before she can escape to college, and her focus is on getting good grades and leaving Fullbrook behind. Bax is an athlete, brought into Fullbrook on a full scholarship to change the fortunes of their ice hockey team. He feels out of place among the rich boys who dominate the school and the sports teams, and he finds a friend in Jules. When Jules is assaulted at the traditional start-of-year school party, Bax has to decide where his loyalties lie.

This is a sensitive and effective exploration of the effects of entitlement, power, and sexual assault – not only on the victim, but on the entire community. It is not immediately clear what has happened to Jules – even though the assault is described from her point of view, she doesn’t fully process the event until later in the book, and initially the reader doesn’t know exactly what happened. The only clues are her behaviour over the next few days – retreating from her friends, skipping meals and classes – and the confusion among her friends about what might be causing her unusual behaviour. In an echo of the 2015 Stanford rape trial, the reaction of the school authorities is heartbreaking, and when Jules turns to her friends for support, she discovers that she is not the only victim, and that the start-of-year party is not the only tradition that puts the female students at risk.

Jules, Bax, and their circle of friends are all engaging characters who bring their own expectations and ambitions to the Fullbrook Academy community. They encounter bullying and abuse of power in every part of their lives – in the sports teams, in their interactions with the school authorities, and in their relationships with other students – but as they spend more time together, they start to see a way to challenge the accepted traditions, and to make a stand against the entitlement of a rich and powerful elite.

Tradition tackles an important and relevant Young Adult issue with a sensitive and effective story. The setting, the events, and the reactions of the characters feel uncomfortably real, and the book is definitely a conversation-starter. Do you agree with the actions and reactions of the characters? Would you do what they do? What would you risk to protect your community? This would be a perfect book club text, with plenty to discuss and explore. And who knows? Maybe it will help to change attitudes to sexual assault and justice.

Have you read Tradition? Did you think Jules was treated fairly? And what about Bax? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Gilded King

Title: The Gilded King
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Post-apocalyptic vampires! Zombies! Myths and legends of the fall of civilisation, and the origins of the vampire-based society. Book one of Josie Jaffrey’s Sovereign series is an inventive, original, and exciting read.

The world (post-apocalyptic Europe) and the scenario (a virus turning people into zombies, and a class of vampires immune to the disease) are well developed, and the settings are vividly described. The story follows two points of view – Julia, a human servant, and Cameron, a vampire on a mission to find an old friend. I enjoyed following Julia’s story through plenty of twists and heart-pounding moments, and I liked the development of her relationship with her best friend. Cameron’s story was exciting, with just as many twists and surprises. When the politics and intrigues of the society start to affect both characters, the book becomes even more gripping.

If you’re after a new take on the vampire romance genre, with plenty of backstabbing, plotting, and adventure, this book should be next on your reading list.

Have you read The Gilded King? What did you think of the setting? And what about Julia’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Kingdom

Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3/5

The blurb on the back of this book sounded amazing – a YA Westworld-style thriller set in a futuristic theme park. The characters the visitors come to see are robotic ‘fantasists’, assumed by their creators to have no inner lives, thoughts, or feelings. Older models are retired as their programming becomes outdated, and new fantasists are brought in to replace them.

The story is told in an unconventional series of court documents, interviews, pieces of evidence, and the recollections of a fantasist on trial for murder. The premise – a robotic character breaking her programming to murder a human – is intriguing. In reading the fantasist’s first-person accounts of the events leading to the trial, the reader is let into the secret that the robots do have inner lives and feelings. The owners of the park and the participants in the trial do not believe this to be true, and the further into the book you read, the more frustrating this becomes. I certainly wanted to convince them that the protagonist could think and feel, and make moral decisions!

I really liked the way the story was presented, with first-person narration contrasted with third-party accounts, interviews, and reports. I’m giving The Kingdom three stars, because I felt that the author could have done more with the setting and the robotic characters. It’s a really hard task, to allow the reader to connect with a non-human narrator, and I didn’t feel as invested in the story as I wanted to. I would have liked to see more of the fantasists’ experiences and relationships with each other, and possibly see the theme park through the eyes of one of the visitors.

The Kingdom told an interesting and inventive story, but in the end I wanted more from the book – which I guess is a compliment to the author for creating such an interesting world!

Have you read The Kingdom? What did you think of the story? Did the book grab you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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Reviews Roundup

The reviews for the Battle Ground series so far have been amazing! Thank you to all the bloggers and readers who took part in the Blog Tours, or left reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. Indie Authors need reviews – your comments and ratings make a huge difference, and help our books to find their audience.

If you’ve read Battle Ground, False Flag, or Making Trouble, why not leave a review on your favourite review site? Drop us a link in the comments, and we promise we’ll visit the site and take a look!

You’ll find Battle Ground and False Flag on Amazon, and all three books on GoodReads and Library Thing. Thank you in advance for your support!