Publisher's Note:  

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by G. P. Putnam's Sons

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by Dana Mele

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Overall Review:  

This book in a phrase: girl drama!  In Dana Mele's first book, life seems perfect for a time and then in a moment completely comes unhinged.

Our narrator, Kay, is a 17-year-old on the fast track to a coveted college, only to find that in a giant game of "Queen of the Hill", she knocked a few too many down to the bottom.  Now that she's in trouble, the girls that were "stepped on" are eager to return the favor. 

Sent to an all-girl boarding school, Kay is struggling with her past and at the same time has made herself into a leader.  Unfortunately, she and her followers are not exactly kind or approachable.  Plus, they ALL have a few skeletons in their closets.  The murder side of this mystery is really good and kept me guessing right up to the end.  The author is a craftsman at creating twists and turns to keep the reader in suspense.  Unfortunately, in the other side of this novel there's a lot of girls kissing and more (see the content review below). 

If anything, this book is a cautionary tale of personal behavior.  Mostly a bad example in how not to act.  A kind word can go a long way and stepping on people to get to the top will have its consequences.  The saying be careful how you treat people going up the ladder because you may be passing them on the way down is shown quite well in this book.  There are several characters involved yet they are easy to keep track of and fairly well-developed.  With a few red herrings along the way, it was shocking in the end to see who had really "done it".  The story moves at a good pace and intrigue carries the reader through to the end of the story. 

This story touches on a lot of interpersonal relationships between friends, parents, and even a pet.  There's something to be learned even through the hardest trials these characters go through.  Honesty, integrity, and compassion always have a place in whatever world we live in.  The author has written this story in a way that makes the reader wonder if she had once been in the midst of this kind of drama.  Kay, the narrator, is so real it's impressive.  

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  9 religious exclamations; 15 mild obscenities; 2 religious profanities; 19 derogatory names; 30 scatological words; 10 anatimical terms; 12 F-word derivatives. 

Violence/Gore:  Teen girl murdered, some grisly details; mention of brother previously found dead; mention of best friend who committed suicide; mention of woman who tried to commit suicide; animal was killed, some details; mention of a nighmare after-life; teen girl remembers a funeral and the broken body, some description; teen girl remembers when her brother got hurt fighting for her; a blood oath, some blood; teen girl found dead, details but not gory; teens write mean notes; teen girl receives threats; teen girl thinks about her brother's decaying body as she sits in front of his gravestone; teen girl helps set up an opportunity for violence; teen girl remembers violence to a teen boy; teen girl cut in the hand, some blood; teen girls fight, some details of violence, some blood; teen girl remembers violence to an animal; teen girl remembers opportunity and reason for violence; teen girl remembers as she planned to kill herself.

Sex/Nudity:  Teen girls skinny dip in a lake, mention of moonlight on their skin, no other descriptions of nudity; teen girl wishes she were in a relationship with another girl, several mentions; teen girl has a girlfriend; a teen girl accuses another teen girl of always trying to get into the clothes of a 3rd teen girl; teen girl is alone with another teen girl, rubbing neck, holding hands, teen girl wishes the other teen girl would kiss her; teen girl goes on a date with another teen girl; teen boy had sex with 2 teen girls at different times; teen girl and teen guy are flirting, touching, & implied kissing and making out, multiple mentions; 2 teen girls make out in the bushes; teen girl dreams of kissing and touching another teen girl, a few mentions; one teen girl jokingly accuses another teen girl of having sex with a teen boy; teen girl remembers cuddling, kissing, and making out with a teen boy, she implies to her friends they had sex; teen girl wants to kiss a teen boy, multiple times; teen girl accuses another teen girl of having sex with a 3rd teen girl; teen girl remembers a time when she was almost naked on a bed with a teen girl with intent to have sex, some details, not graphic; teen girl kisses another teen girl; teen girl remembers kissing a teen boy; 2 girls on the floor touching and kissing; teen girl remembers when she was in a vehicle with a teen boy, clothing off, underwear on, touching and intent to have sex; teen girl wonders if a teen boy and teen girl had sex where she is sitting; teen girl admits to being with another girl after a party.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Performance enhancement drugs, cheating in school, murder of a pet, manslaughter, obstruction of justice, homosexuality, bisexuality, teen sex, social conflicts, death of a family member, murder of a family member, mental disorders, computer hacking, underage drinking.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

High school girls drink alcohol at multiple school sponsored parties; teen girl drinks alcohol at a non-school party; teen girl runs an underground bar from the girl's bathroom at school; teen boy and girl were getting high at a non-school party; teen girl remembers getting high in 8th grade; teen boy and girl drink alcohol in his room.

Reviewed By Beth
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