Review By Kayleigh

This is a dark and twisty book that’s both heavy and enticing.

Favourite Quote:

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.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

When Sarah Taylor arrives at the exclusive St. Ambrose School, she’s carrying more baggage than just what fits in her suitcase. She knows she’s not like the other girls—if the shabby, all-black, non-designer clothes don’t give that away, the bottle of lithium hidden in her desk drawer sure does.

St. Ambrose’s queen bee, Greta Stanhope, picks Sarah as a target from day one and the most popular, powerful, horrible girl at school is relentless in making sure Sarah knows what the pecking order is. Thankfully, Sarah makes an ally out of her roommate Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, a cigarette-huffing, devil-may-care athlete who takes no bullshit. Also down the hall is Nick Hollis, the devastatingly handsome RA, and the object of more than one St. Ambrose student’s fantasies. Between Strots and Nick, Sarah hopes she can make it through the semester, dealing with not only her schoolwork and a recent bipolar diagnosis, but Greta’s increasingly malicious pranks.

Sarah is determined not to give Greta the satisfaction of breaking her. But when scandal unfolds, and someone ends up dead, her world threatens to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a dangerous, delicious, twisty coming-of-age tale that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

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.