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Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund

Bookshelves of Doom first brought this book to my attention and, after browsing Diana Peterfreund's blog, I found myself charmed and went and snagged a copy of Secret Society Girl. And though I didn't almost get hit by a car, I did stay up too late two nights in a row finishing this one. I found myself alternately morbidly fascinated by and completely frustrated with a world that (though "real") was so utterly alien to the one I experienced at college. More to come on that further down.

Amy Haskel is your average overachieving junior at Eli University. Editor of the school's lit magazine, she's up to her elbows reading War and Peace, sorting writing submissions, and negotiating a very tenuous friends-with-benefits relationship with her assistant editor. Amid all this, Amy is shocked when Rose and Grave, the most prestigious secret society on campus, taps her for their annual initiation. Btw, it's clear from the get-go that Eli is not-so-loosely based on Yale, while Rose and Grave is patterned on the infamous Skull and Bones secret society.

The notion of a secret society is so outside my realm of experience, that that alone made the book interesting. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that these groups actually exist and have persisted into the present day, albeit in altered and, one would hope, slightly more enlightened forms. In fact, the admission of women forms the backbone of this story as Amy's initiation class is the first to include a female contingent. Rather unsurprisingly, I spent a good portion of reading time railing away in my head at the archaic, misogynist, preposterous ways the men of Rose and Grave viewed the world. Don't even get me started on the so-called "patriarchs" who threaten (and come through on said threats) to make Amy's and the other girls' lives a living hell if they insist on remaining members, aka Diggers. Suffice it to say, I was ready to lose it long before Amy did. And I'm not at all sure I would have made the choice she did in the end.

That said, I sank into Peterfreund's clean, light prose. Just when the whole thing seemed too much to take, she'd include a quiet scene where Amy reminded me why I liked her so much. One of my favorite quiet scenes, in which Amy tries to apologize to the steadfast Brandon for being MIA so much lately:
"Ever notice how we get five times the submissions for the commencement issue as we do for every other issue combined?" I placed my bag on the desk. "With the other issues, we're scrambling for stories or reduced to whipping up something at the last minute ourselves so the layout isn't all ads for Starbucks and stationery shops."

Brandon turned a page and kept reading.

"Of course," I went on, taking my seat and swiveling to face him, "you've always been better than me at that. Writing stories on the fly, I mean."

His eyes paused their back-and-forth scanning, and he blinked. "Thanks."

"I'm better at the scrambling."

"You're certainly demonstrating that now."

I swallowed. Too far.

Brandon nodded his head toward a neat stack of manuscripts at the corner of the desk. "Those four are possibilities."

And the Terse Award goes to. . .Brandon Weare. "I'm sorry about last night."

He finally looked at me, for all the good it did. I couldn't tell one thing from his expression. "Which part?"

Any part that hurt his feelings.
I like this girl. I just do. I finished the book still conflicted over Amy's choice and that of her fellow Diggirls. Still unsure which (if any) of her male friends can be trusted, particularly the intriguing GHP. Still supremely relieved I'm not living her life. And still satisfied in an I'll have another dish of pie, please, kind of way. I've got the sequel on my nightstand and I'm thinking I'll "dig" right in.

Links
Book Daze Review
Bookshelves of Doom Review
Speed-Reading Book Nerd Review
Trashionista Review

Comments

  1. I think you hit on the reason I'm so fascinated by this series - it's set in our everyday world, but yet at the same time, is so alien!

    The 3rd book is coming out in a couple of weeks. I can't wait.

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  2. What did you think of the second one, Li?

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  3. This was a little different than I'm used to, so I was surprised that I fell right into loving the series. I reviewed the second one and have the third one, Rites of Spring (Break), to review as well. Great review....I'm looking forward to seeing how you like the next one. :)

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  4. Thanks, Kimberly. I'm excited to read Under the Rose just in time for the third one to come out.

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  5. Angie - Re the 2nd book, I enjoyed it (and finished it in a single sitting - Ms Peterfreund's writing is just addictive), but I think the novelty factor wore off a bit. Also, it felt a bit heavy on the tell, not show - if I paused to think about the story and the evidence shown, I struggled with trying to grasp why a girl like Amy (or anyone sane, for that matter) wanted to be in a secret society.

    It may sound as though I have more negatives than positives, but that's really not the case. I love Amy and her relationships with the supporting characters. Characters make or break a book for me, and they definitely made this one. We learn quite a lot more about Amy's fellow R&G members, and the story arc is definitely progressing.

    And I'm still holding out for that romance so tantalisingly hinted at in the first book!

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  6. Having finished it now, I am in utter agreement. The characters were awesome in this one. And I'm on pins and needles that that hint (which was even more present in Under the Roes, I thought) will pan out in the third one!

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