Sunday, November 6, 2016

Invitation Only by Kate Brian | Rating: ★★★★☆

Sequels can often be a bore but in the case of the second novel in the best-selling Private series by Kate Brian, it's even better than our introduction to Easton. Invitation Only picks up immediately where Private ended and toys with us as we grow more and more captivated to the now-luxurious everyday life of Reed Brennan. Just a bit of time she's spent at her new, ultra-exclusive boarding school, Reed has found herself as the newest member of the campus' most notorious housing department: Billings.

The Billings Girls are everything anyone has ever dreamed to be and certainly the most sought-after dorm throughout the entire school. They're the brightest and most beautiful female students and with her newfound position amongst their ranks, Reed's future seems brighter than ever. If you ignore her missing kind-of-boyfriend Thomas Pearson, the pressure of excellence and the probability of being hazed (what is she, their maid?) by her new dorm mates before officially becoming one of their own.

Just as Reed is finding her way around these speed bumps at her new school, it is obvious that things are just going to keep her on her toes. From the ever present affection from one of the senior boys, who insists on showering her with gifts, and with whom she has no real feelings for but her former roommate Constance does, to becoming Billings unofficial maid, to wondering where the hell Thomas is and if she should move on, to her currently roommate Natasha seemingly blackmailing her--threatening her entire future at Easton--it's obvious to say that Reed has a lot more on her plate than she'd ever expected.


To kick things up a notch, there's an ultra-alluring and intriguing party called the Legacy happening soon--but because Reed is the first in her family to go to school at Easton, and a scholarship student to boot, that everyone is gushing about. Reed, of course, can only go in as someone's plus-one. Bummer! Her new friends, Noelle, Ariana, Taylor and Kiran all have the perfect date in mind for Reed: the boy clambering for Reed's affection. Because of her newfound status and the desire to keep it, Reed takes it upon herself to go with this boy so she can be at the hottest party of the year with her friends.

Each day brings up a new feeling of guilt with Reed, though, as her friends keep up with making her feel at home and gift her with various luxurious. But with Natasha on her about finding dirt on her friends, and her education on the line, she plays the rule of double agent quite well. By quite well, I mean she struggles a lot but still tries--until finally she takes the risk and caves to Noelle and Ariana about what she's been doing.

The outcome is surprising. I won't spoil it--but it always made me scoff even in the first time I read the novel. Still, it's a dishy and suspenseful read that pulls us away from the main objectives. Invitation Only cuts back on Reed's academic struggles, and instead focuses on her working to claw her way into her new position as Billings Girl. We see a lot of internal struggles when it comes to spying on her new friends, seeing the boy her other friend is clearly interested in, and the budding connection she has with her exes roommate, Josh Hollis.

Josh is one of those rarities at Easton. He isn't as ambitious as Reed is about fitting in and serves as a sort of moral compass. It's a great balance and you'll fall in love with him all over again. I remember loving him to death my first time reading Private and I'm thrilled that's still there. He and Reed have always had such great chemistry and this doesn't change. Once more, their story is only just beginning and has aged fantastically. He's her confidant and it's a beautiful told introduction of friendship with a spark; with just enough angst to keep the plot interesting.

Our novel ends with a killer note: Thomas has been found. I am not afraid of being a spoil-sport here because A.) the book is a decade old and B.) it's a predictable twist you all should have called from the beginning. After the Legacy party, our gang of students are on a high: Natasha came clean about why she was blackmailing Reed, our girl is officially a Billings Girl. But when the night ends, they find out an important and shocking (to them) truth. Thomas Pearson is dead.

Da-da-dum. Novel ends.

Honestly, Invitation Only is as fast paced and fun as Private and sets the stage for the biggest mystery arch that will last the next two books. Who the hell is the killer? Now that I'm older, reading the first few books and seeing all the clues makes it obvious because so much is foreshadowed, but it's still something that gets my heart racing. Newer readers, first time readers, will be shocked at the revelations that come through the next two books and I can't wait to relive it!

I recommend this series to anyone who loves fluff and good old fashioned mysteries. It's one of the funnest rides ever and will keep you awake at night just to read a whole book from it. Kate Brian, you really created something fantastic and twisty with this.

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