Is there a more perfect time to read dark academia than in the fall? I think not, and if you feel the same, then you should check out A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee.
|Pub Date: 8-3-21|
YA - Thriller
Felicity Morrow attends the Dalloway School, a prestigious boarding school with a dark history. While the faculty and board try to keep the school's past under wraps, the students can't help but obsess over it and the notorious Dalloway Five-- a group of students who were suspected of witchcraft and who all died one after the other in mysterious circumstances. After the death of her girlfriend, Felicity took a leave of absence from the ivy-covered campus in the hopes of getting over her grief, but now she's back to finish her senior year and graduate.
Felicity is hoping to fly under the radar, but then she meets Ellis Haley. Hailed as a writing prodigy, Ellis has come to Dalloway hoping the eerie atmosphere will help her pen her next novel. Felicity has always felt a sort of kinship with the Five and the magic that envelopes the Dalloway grounds, so when Ellis asks her to help with research for her novel, Felicity reluctantly agrees. But when the past starts to repeat itself, Felicity will have to confront not only the darkness that has threaded itself into every fiber of Dalloway but the blackness within herself before everything she's ever known gets ripped away.
If you were to remake Dead Poets Society as a psychological thriller, it would be this absolute mind-twist of a book. The dark academia boarding school vibes are immaculate and I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to throw on a tailored plaid skirt and sit around a lounge with these girls while waxing poetic about classic literature with an old fashioned, and I don't even drink. That said, I didn't believe for one second that the characters were high school-aged. They're supposed to be 17/18 years old, but they all spoke/acted like they were middle-aged and were so pretentious. I get that was what the author was going for, but they were just such unlikable snobs, especially Ellis. She was so manipulative and thrilled at playing the villain. I aged them all up in my head to mid-twenties and that worked better for me with the plot, which was fantastic. I loved the spooky, witchy storyline and thought the backstory of the Dalloway Five and the school's ties to the occult were fascinating. I'd gladly read an entire story just about that. I thought it was interesting how Lee tied in the basis of Felicity's thesis about mental illness often being used to build suspense in literature and the events of the story. You know that Felicity suffers from some sort of mental illness and that she might not be the most reliable narrator, so it's hard to differentiate between what's in her head and what's truly going on. The plot comes together in a way that's pretty jarring and I think most will either love or hate, but I quite liked it. If you're in the mood for something that is a bit of an ode to Gothic literature and you don't mind a slow build-up, I definitely recommend this.