Academy Girls by Nora Carroll | Rating: ★★★★★
“Words once memorized came back to me: the more things stay the same, the more they change. A line among many lines I was led to believe would be worthwhile to remember. But that was a long time ago, when I was a girl in a circle of girls. When all of us believed that words mattered as much as money, flesh, and blood.”
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Ah, yes. Academy Girls, in spite of its borderline cheesy name and a summary that doesn’t do itself justice, it has earned a slot on my top reads of 2015–and of all time. Prepare to get swept away. There’s something realistic and dark and sweet about it that just makes you feel something you can’t explain.
So get your tabs or highlighters ready before reading this one, you’ll find yourself making note of a lot. I’m confident that it will catch many readers eyes more than once.
But how can I describe Academy Girls? Beautiful, brilliantly crafted, surprising, long lasting and full of genuine human emotion. It’s likely that it will haunt me in the days that come and it will take me a while to shake this story.
So let me be clear: Nora Carroll has created something special that is thoughtful and mysterious, hitting all the right marks for a truly wonderful read. If you are looking to feel something, to kick back and relax this Autumn, this book is for you.
Following the narration of a woman, Jane Milton, a divorced mother of one who has found herself in a world of debt by the hands of her ex-husband’s fraud as she makes a last ditch effort to support herself and her fifteen year old son by taking up a teaching post at the old boarding school she attended as a girl.
We watch Jane in two split images: present day as she adjusts to this new chapter of life and finds herself feeling oddly haunted by old memories as well as her struggle to step into the shoes of a teacher with no prior experience. We get a glimpse into her teenage mind, too, with part of the story told from her earlier years.
More importantly, we see how both images collide with one another.
What surprised me most about the story unfolding was that Nora Carroll’s writing was so classic, so smooth, that it was easy to get lost in this gorgeous and mysterious story she’s laid out for us. Academy Girls has all the makings of a favorite book; an instant classic and I couldn’t get enough of it.
It felt warm, passionate and captivating in a way that makes it impossible for its readers to put it down. You’ll feel a surge of emotions while diving into both the past and the present Jane’s thoughts.
Nora Carrol pulls you in from the start and you will feel yourself feeling moved by the poetic tone she uses and how each character is portrayed in a sympathetic light.
Everyone can find something in this novel that will intrigue them.
Whether it’s your curiosity about the history of the school, the murder mystery that captivated the trio of best friends (Jane, Lissa and Cat), the girls that span across generations of students and teachers, there’s something there to catch our eyes in every chapter: each plot is filled in vibrantly and leaves us feeling their presence long after we finish the final page.
We also have a sense of a voice beyond the grave as Jane relives her own memories of her old friend, who committed suicide at a young age, and she begins to suspect a student of hers has somehow gotten a hold of Kat’s manuscript.
The tales that unfold from Kat’s never-published story are beautiful and dark, the way that they haunt us and Jane throughout the story. Kat had a great voice in her writing and the tragedy of her story is painful to read.
I also thought it was interesting to see Jane reconnect, or start fresh, with some people from her past. I liked the elements that came with being an old girl and how it ties them all together in some way or another.
It was interesting seeing her history blend with the new and how things have both changed and stayed the same at Grove. I also enjoyed watching Jane grow, mature with age, shaking her prejudiced thoughts and opening up more; improving her career. I loved that by stories end, she found an unlikely home and family in Grove.
It was unexpected in the way that life is and reminds us just how much we grow with age. I felt proud of her by the final pages and there’s nothing more you can ask for in character development. I really, really, grew to love Jane; her past and her present.
Academy Girls is filled with poetry and literary references, mystery and loss. Tragedy, confusion, boredom in the teenage mind. Each of the separate timelines blended easily with one another, not leaving its audience confused or muddled in unknown times.
It’s the perfect fall accessory and will speak to readers.