Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

“Even when readers think they have it all figured out, Wiebe delivers a blow that will keep them energized and panting for the next installment.” -- Voya Magazine
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.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I read the summary for this book.

In The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, Anne is sent to a Preparatory Academy in a small island in Maine, in the hopes that she'll be able to do well and earn a full scholarship to Brown. However, everyone in her class seems to be aiming to be valedictorian, which is not necessarily unusual in itself. There are, however, some odd things about the people and the island itself. Anne makes it her mission to find out the truth, but once she does, will she be ready the answer?

I usually figure out plot twists in books right away, so it was a nice feeling that while I was able to guess a few things here, at least a couple of the bigger plot twists were a surprise to me. These plot twists didn't come entirely out of left field, either. There were clues in the earlier chapters, but their significance was glossed over so while you might get a niggling feeling, you'll probably quickly dismiss it anyway.

While I was reading, I tried to classify this book. At first, I figured it was a gothic novel, then a mystery book. After finishing the book, I'd say that it definitely has gothic fiction elements, with a some supernatural and mystery elements thrown in.

I enjoyed the parts wherein Anne was figuring out what's going on in the island and Cania Christy. For those who are used to the fast-paced action in most novels these days, they may find the reveal too slow. Personally, I think the pace is perfect because it keeps you guessing along with Anne.

Anne was a fun heroine, mostly because her comebacks to mean comments were sharp. She started out pretty strong to me, but near the end, when she and Ben were on almost-romantic terms already and her decisions were even more motivated by love, she started to lose me a bit. Ben is an okay guy, but I kinda wish he wasn't so perfect physically. Very few guys are, and the emphasis on Ben's looks were kind of a turnoff for me after awhile.

Thanks to NetGalley and BenBella Books for the e-copy.


  1. The plot twists are interesting.
  2. You're kept guessing.
  3. It's a creative plot. 


  1. Ben may be a little too perfect. 


  1. You like books about the supernatural.
  2. You're looking for original concepts.
  3. You like books set in boarding schools.




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