You know, I came thisclose to ignoring the first book in Diana Peterfreund’s “Secret Society Girl” series. I can safely say if it wasn’t for the internet, I would never have given SSG a second glance. However, thanks to a rather serendipitous series of events, I read the SSG excerpt and there was no looking back.
I grabbed the first two books (“Secret Society Girl” and “Under the Rose” respectively), before spending last June counting down the days to the release of the third book “Rites of Spring (Break)” (and yes, totally worth it). And then I had to wait an entire year (okay, I exaggerate – eleven months?) for the fourth and final book “Tap & Gown” to be released.
Full disclosure: The author realised I hadn’t received an ARC (I wouldn’t normally recommend wailing about how jealous you are that other people had gotten hands on advanced copies, but that unwittingly worked for me) and actually took the trouble to ask if I wanted one (err hello!).
Anyway, the blurb:
For Amy the countdown to graduation has begun, and suddenly the perfect ending to a perfectly iconoclastic Eli career is slipping from her grasp. Her new boyfriend’s been made an offer he just can’t refuse. Her fellowship applications haven’t even been filed. And the student she’s chosen to take her place in Rose & Grave – the country’s more powerful and notorious secret society – seems to come complete with a secret life already intact.
Lunging toward the finish line, Amy finds trouble around every corner, from society intrigues and unlikely stalkers to former flames and mandatory science credits. Surely it couldn’t get worse…until Initiation Night explodes into a terrifying scene and into a last test of wits for a young woman just trying to make it out of the Ivy League in one piece.
For those who haven’t yet read the books, Amy Haskel has spent her final year at Eli University getting embroiled in the doings of the super-secret society Rose & Grave (although bearing in mind Amy and some of her fellow Diggers’ slightly irreverent approach towards recruitment in this book, I have to say I’m not entirely sure how secret it is anymore).
So, it’s her final semester at university, Amy’s just committed herself to the most unlikely relationship ever, she has to finish her thesis and get enough credits to graduate, she has to figure what she wants to do next, and yes, there’s the little matter of choosing her replacement in Rose & Grave.
This book very much reminded me of my final year at university, this sense of “so, what happens next”. You spend the last four years of your life working towards graduation, and suddenly it’s upon you, and it feels like a major crossroads in your life. Decisions you make now could affect the rest of your life. There’s so much unknown ahead of you. You’re saying goodbye to people who have been constants in your life for a good while. And in Amy’s case, it’s made even more complicated by the fact she has to tap the next class of Rose & Grave.
Ah, how much did I love the whole tapping process! As in previous books, I was completely engrossed in the rituals and traditions of Rose & Grave. This time around, we didn’t spend that much time in the tomb, but the Tap Night events more than made up for it.
One of the main reasons that this series just works for me is Amy herself. She’s real. She’s no Mary Sue, she’s not perfect, she makes mistakes – but she learns from them. And you root for her. There was this point in the book, and I’m paraphrasing slightly here, when she’s reminded of herself at the beginning of the year and thinks “who was that girl, Amy?”. That probably summed up how much she has grown over the course of four books.
And Pajamie. I didn’t think I could crush on him more. But T&G showed I can.
On a more serious note, T&G doesn’t shy away from tackling real issues either. In previous books, the external conflicts are somewhat OTT, but not so in this one. It fits in with the “growing-up” feel of this book, and rather neatly brings resolution to events in the previous book.
My quibbles. Err quibble. Singular. It took a while for me to remember who was who, and some of the secondary R&G members never really get fleshed out. Then again, let’s face it – new readers are probably not going to start with the fourth book.
Looking back at the series as a whole, “Rites of Spring (Break)” remains my favourite (probably because I’m a total sucker for romance), but T&G definitely comes a very close second.
One small part of me never wants to see this series end. I mean, there’s so much potential story left in this universe. I could do with knowing how the class of D178 get on (and gosh, did they make a strong start) or what happens to Jenny’s startup. But then again, they would be different stories, they would be other people’s stories, and I have to say, as the final book in the SSG series, “Tap & Gown” is an incredibly satisfying finish to Amy and D177’s Rose & Grave days.