She’d be furious that I, but she wouldn’t be scared. I’d never been a threat to her before because I’m a loser who’s insane. She wouldn’t be on guard at all.
The St. Ambrose School for Girls is by Jessica Ward, a pen name for J.R. Ward. I know and love J. R. Ward and her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I was so intrigued when this book popped up on my radar – it’s definitely different from her paranormal romantic suspense series.
The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a coming of age YA set in 1991 (eep does that make it historical fiction?) and focuses on Sarah Taylor – a super intelligent loner who is forced into an elite private girls school by her mother. Sarah doesn’t fit in – she’s not wealthy, she’s super smart, and she’s…. different. Cue some seriously intense bullying from the rich girls in school.
I love a good dark academia story, and was intrigued to see what Jessica was going to do to make this stand out. And whew – does it stand out. Sarah is bipolar and the story becomes a gripping exploration of her illness – her highs and her lows and her survival just trying to live her life while dealing with this illness. You see some dark things through her manic and depressive episodes and part of the experience reading this book is figuring out how much of Sarah’s perspective you can trust. This is a dark book, and it has a heavy, but satisfying, ending.
I feel like this is a really intimate and deep character study of teenage girls, where wealth and privilege rule. I enjoyed reading this book as an adult, but also know that the teens in my life would also like it. There are some mature and adult themes in this book, but a mature YA reader could definitely handle it.
Jessica is an incredible and gifted writer and it was fascinating to see her try a different age group and genre to write in. I hope this is just the beginning of another whole branch of books by her.
Thank you Simon and Schuster for the ARC in return for an honest review.