Thank you Crown Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Alexa Donne's thrilling new YA The Ivies.
As someone familiar with Alexa's work in YA sci-fi, I was so interested to see her authorial voice in this new genre--though I'll say she seemed to already be leaning toward mystery/thriller with the twists in The Stars We Steal.
The Ivies was familiar in the best way--reminiscent of aughts classics like Clique and Pretty Little Liars but with a fresh voice and modern lens. For the TL;DR "just tell me if I should buy it crowd": preorder this book if you enjoy classic genre tropes like toxically ambitious girls, boarding schools, and sabotage. Do not use it as a handbook. :)
If you still need convincing...
"These are my best friends, but sometimes I hate them."
Olivia Winters is a scholarship student at Claflin, a boarding school for the elite. Her friends? A cunning group of girls who call themselves the Ivies--yes, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. But that's probably just a coincidence, right? Lol jk, they've been sabotaging their classmates for YEARS to claim coveted spots for the class of 2025. (ahahaha I'm so old what the hell.)
This book is particularly hard to review without spoiling anything. My immediate reaction is "oh my god, you won't believe what happened!" but for the sake of your reading experience, I'm going to take a page out of the Ivies handbook (wait, I just said it's not a handbook) and do my best to keep you in the dark. You'll enjoy it more that way, I promise. Or am I just trying to make you look bad? How Avery of me.
The characters are my favorite thing about this book. Particularly that not a single one of them is a good person. (SCREAMS in *redacted*). That's what makes it so compelling--or should I say thrilling--to follow the mystery over Olivia's shoulder. It's a bit fitting that I literally have a strained neck muscle as I type this and I might attribute it to all the whiplash I had while reading. The murderer could be ANYONE and EVERYONE has a motive.
I found it super compelling that even our main character Olivia has some dirt. Everyone calls her out on playing the victim--which she absolutely does--and that makes her POV so much more palatable while also allowing her to make some pretty sketchy choices throughout the book.
There were a few moments where I felt the clues were a bit obvious, but never for the main mystery. I wish I could be a bit more specific here. BUT, in the end, obvious clues were just really solid red herrings that I fell for. The major twists in the middle REALLY got me good.
Overall, this is a fun, twisty read with some heart-pounding moments, an emotional core, and about horrible people you'll really enjoy loving and loathing. I definitely recommend this book to readers who are fans of the thriller genre and YA category (which sounds silly because duh but really if you love that combo you should read this one).
You can check out my podcast interview with the author here:
Want this book on your shelves? Preorder it here!