Review – Diana Peterfreund’s “Secret Society Girl”

I’ve just finished a book that I really really loved *happy dance*  And to make it even better, it was completely out of the blue…

I received the Bantam Dell June Sneak Peeks newsletter yesterday, and quickly scanned it to see if any authors I knew had books coming up.  There weren’t any books that I was interested in, but right at the bottom was a title that caught my attention – “Secret Society Girl” by Diana Peterfreund.  I read the short blurb…

Crackling with wit, here is the smart, sexy introduction to the adventures of Amy Haskel, a perfectly normal Ivy League coed who just happens to be a member of one of the most notorious secret societies in the world.

… and thought “Nah, not really my thing” and hit Delete.  Then I started reading blog posts on Bloglines and found this post reviewing the very same book – with the sentence “This book almost got me hit by a car”.  Thought “Hang on a sec”, went back to the email in my the Deleted Items folder, and clicked on the “Read Chapter One” link.  Five minutes later, I was at Fictionwise downloading the book.

Amy Haskell is a undergrad (okay, I will get tripped up on the differences between the British and American university systems, but am giving this a go) – she’s a junior at Eli University, a (fictional) Ivy League university.  This is the time of year when juniors get “tapped” to join secret societies, and being the editor of the campus Lit Mag, Amy expects to be invited to join the not-so-secret Quill & Ink society.  But for some reason, her society interview doesn’t go as planned – err… could it be because she’s actually been tapped by the ultra-prestigious Rose & Grave society instead?

Back cover blurb here:

Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male.

So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?

Whisked off into an initiation rite that’s a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud, and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.

I will admit I probably wouldn’t have bought the book based on the blurb (no, not even the HP reference) – it was the first chapter that made me want more.

Ms Peterfreund has written a book that is just so compulsively readable.  For a book with zero paranormal elements, I thought it was incredibly imaginative.  She hints in this interview that a lot of the rituals and activities are inspired by real-life secret societies.  Amy’s Eli University is a collegiate university, with all its attendant traditions, which is why this book almost feels like a peek into an alternate world (and also, I imagine, why Harry Potter was referenced in the blurb).

This book had a YA feel – as Amy is a junior, I’m assuming she is 19 or 20?  It’s first-person narration, and Amy’s voice feels authentic.  She’s funny, slightly snarky, and honest.  She’s an appealing heroine.  The secondary characters are less well-rounded, but that is probably partly due to the fact we are seeing them from Amy’s perspective.

I scribbled down two words as a reminder for when writing this post – “messy” and “lust”.  LOL.  Well, messy, because life and relationships aren’t always neat and tidy, and this book reflects that.  Lust – because Amy’s a normal red-blooded woman.  Err… not a slut by any means, but she obviously notices the cute guys around campus!  Which adds to the teenage feel of this book.

This is not a romance, btw (though I admit that I have hopes for the follow-on books).  This is more a coming-of-age story and about finding your place in the world.  And yes, the good guys win at the end. 

It’s not a deep book (and doesn’t pretend to be), but it’s been a while since I’ve been so drawn into a fictional world.  Heck, I found myself thinking about the Rose & Grave at odd times throughout the day, and I’ve just bought the second book, “Under the Rose”.  I have to say that “Secret Society Girl” is an A read for me and I’m excited to have found a new-to-me author.

Oh, and to wrap up, this is also exactly why I have mixed feelings about ebooks.  On the one hand, I read the blurb, loved it, and had the book five minutes later.  On the other hand, I can’t pass this book on to my sis and friends, and say “Read this!”.  Which is what I really want to do. 


20 thoughts on “Review – Diana Peterfreund’s “Secret Society Girl”

  1. I’ve heard of this one! I didn’t realize it, but yeah, I’ve heard of this one 😀 You make it sounds interesting so i might give it a try 😀

    See, I don’t mind as much when the book has a YA and less romance, because it’s YA. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that somone who’s 20 will find her HEA ending…

    Ana – no, it’s not just available as ebook. Publisher is Dell 😛

  2. Ana – Nope, as Nath said, they’re releasing them in mmp. I think they were in trade paperback previously as well. There are a couple of different covers, but this was the one on Amazon UK.

    Nath – I think it’s tagged as romance on the publisher’s website, but it’s not really. I mean, there are boys in the book 😉 , but the focus is really on becoming a member of Rose & Grave, and everything that entails.

    Angie – Try reading the first chapter to see if you like her voice. I’m definitely sold on this series.

  3. Wow–what a great review! The blurb doesn’t sound like something i’d normally read (society=sorority in my head, which conjures up some nasty jokes), but I definitely will be adding this one to my ever growing list! I’ll wait for the mmp 🙂

    Hey, cute avi by the way!

  4. Thea – Hmm… I admit I’m not quite up to speed with Greek sororities / fraternities thing, but I suspect the Rose & Grave society has some similarities. Don’t let that put you off though!

    I know I keep on going on about reading the first chapter, but I really do believe that in 1st-person narration, you either like the voice or you don’t – and if you don’t, your chances of liking the book are pretty much shot.

    I can’t take credit for the monster pics (assume that is what an avi is??) – it’s a free WordPress thing. I’m loving them – they’re generated based on your email addy, which is why you and Ana get the same one!

  5. I was at the store today (not a bookstore, but Target), and they had one lone copy of this book! I took it as a sign and scooped it up 🙂 Can’t wait to get started!

    And yes the avis are the little monster pics. They are adorable!!!! The one for Ana and I looks kind of like a steak to me. Or a kidney? Haha!

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  7. Thanks so much for reading! I’m really glad you liked it, and your review made my day!

    You’re right, the third book, RITES OF SPRING (BREAK), will be released in trade paperback and ebook (I think there’s even a Kindle version) in a little less than three weeks. The first two are still available in trade paperback and ebook, and I think there may even be a few copies of the first book hardcover floating around.

    Is this the point where I confess that I don’t have the ebook versions myself? I have no ereader.

  8. Ms Peterfreund – And you’ve made my day by commenting! Thanks for stopping by and for the info on the available editions. I can’t wait for the third book to come out!

    I’m a recent convert to ebooks, nothing beats them for sheer convenience. But if someone came up with a way for getting paper versions into my hands immediately (and somehow vanishing them into a bookshelf that doesn’t take up any physical space), I’ll give up my ebook reader in a shot 😉

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