Sunday, November 6, 2016

Private by Kate Brian | Rating: ★★★★☆

Here were buildings of brick and stone, topped by shingled roofs and spires, tradition and pride oozing from every dated cornerstone. Here were ancient, weathered, arched doorways, thick wooden doors on iron hinges, cobblestone walks lined by neat beds of flowers. Here were pristine playing fields of bright green grass and gleaming white lines. Everything I saw was perfect. Nothing reminded me of home. 

With the arrival of autumn and the days to winter growing closer, I tend to get very nostalgic. I repeat: very nostalgic. Back in my early years of high school, I had been obsessed with books in the similar vein as Private--the idea of boarding school life, the juicy drama of Gossip Girl. I remember just wandering the shelves at Barnes & Noble with the lunch money I had saved up (instead of eating school lunch? Yes, please.) and there was this little end cap with the first book in a new series that was so obviously targeted at girls my age. When I read the summary of Kate Brian's latest, I was in it to win it or whatever it is they say.

When I picked up the book the next morning during study hall, instead of doing my French homework, I knew I was a total goner. I haven't really touched the entire series in years but the books have had their place of display on my bookshelf for years and they just felt so appealing. Picking up Private again after so many years felt like coming home--I missed Reed Brennan and her adventures at Easton with the Billings Girls. Kate Brian's writing is just a smooth, fluffy and fast paced as I remembered it.


Now, in my twenties, I do find I have a problem with some of the many plots or characteristics of Reed or the others. Which is why my rating has bumped down by one star (perhaps only half a star) and blah-blah-blah. It's true that I am out of the targeted age range, though, and I'm not going to be one of those reviewers who calls out teenage characters for being, well, teenagers. Because in spite of its flaws, it's still as intriguing as ever--and when you pick up an old favourite years down the road, it's like reading it with new eyes all over again.

Kate Brian has a way with incorporating luxury, teenage angst, changes and gritty mystery; she keeps it quick witted and smart. One of the things I loved most about Private (especially in the first four books) is all the clues laid out for the greater mystery to come. Brian weaves these plots into our minds and foreshadows it smartly. I'm excited to see that I still love Noelle Lange and her problematic Billings Girls just as much as I did way back when--I've kept the glass-licker remark in my mind for years but it still makes me laugh--and it's just an entertaining read.

Unlike many of Kate Brian's counterparts in the genre, she tends to keep all our plots straight to the point and intelligent. I love that a book can be all things at once and Private is one of those books. Despite how old it's getting (I can't believe it's ten years old. Sniff. I'm getting old.) the best thing about Private is that it's aged really well. Sure, it's a nostalgic pick me up at its core nowadays but it's still really relevant.

My heart still skips a beat when Reed meets the Billings Girls. My mind is on high alert with the drama. I find myself swooning over Reed's attraction to Thomas, the little glimpses of other side characters and the promise of Reed's future as a Billings Girl. Although I remember clearly the drama that has yet to unfold, I find myself just as intrigued as ever and may or may not have binge reread the first two novels over my break. Private is that sort of book that engraves itself in your veins and refuses to let you go about your day-to-day life--it's perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars.

If you loved this book back in the day, you're still likely to love it now. No matter what, Easton is still chop full of mystery and glamor and I feel younger all over again. It's a deeply satisfying read that will leave you feeling winded with the promise of even more dirt to pile on. Ten years later, it's still a must-read novel for its audience.

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