This is the fourth (and as far, as I know, final) Ashbury/Brookfield novel. It can be read completely independently of the others, but as many of the characters in this book were introduced in previous books in the series, it may be more enjoyable if you’ve read at least Finding Cassie Crazy and/or Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, where several of the characters in this book were first introduced.
Like all the previous novels in this series, the book is entirely epistolary, telling the story of the graduating year of high school at the posh Ashbury high. Two new scholarship students have been accepted to the school, Riley and Amelia, and no one seems to know who they are or where they come from, only that they are a couple, and enigmatic and glamorous doesn’t begin to describe them.
Told through the exam essay accounts of Riley, the girls Emily and Lydia (both introduced in Finding Cassie Crazy), their friend Toby (introduced in Becoming Bindy Mackenzie), various meeting transcripts from the scholarship committee, and the occasional blog entry, we are given the story of how Riley and Amelia arrived at Ashbury, how they at first seemed completely unwilling to engage in anything, but slowly revealed themselves to be brilliant at swimming, various academic subjects, drama and music.
As always, Moriarty captures the voices of the various teenagers brilliantly, as well as those of the adults in the books. I’m truly sorry that this is the last of the books, as I’d grown so very fond of these characters, and would’ve loved to read more about them, and Riley and Amelia, who I only got to spend time with in this book.
Though the cover of the book is bright and pastel-coloured, don’t let it fool you. This is also a Gothic novel, complete with hidden rooms, dark and mysterious pasts, drama, jealousy, deception and manipulation, unhappy love affairs, self-serving plots, and of course, ghosts. The American title of this book is The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and the students writing exam papers all have to write with reference to the Gothic fiction they have read during the term.
As Emily begins her paper: “Lighting struck! There was a howling of wind, as if wolves roamed about, howlingly. Thunder crashed! Lightning struck again.
It was the first day of year 12. I had set out that morning with trepidation. I did not, in all honesty, see a crow, a raven, or any other black bird on the way to school that day. And yet! I was trepidatious.”
It therefore fits perfectly into the R.I.P VII challenge, and is probably my favourite of all the books I’ve read for the challenge so far. Highly recommended to everyone.
Cross posted on my blog.