Review: Private

Name of Book: Private (Private Series #1)

By: Kate Brian, Julian Peploe (designed by)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Copyright Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 179 (Nook Edition)

Format: YA

Reason for Reading: Because it was there?

Rating: C-

My heart pounded against my rib cage and I pressed my sweaty palm into the thigh of my jeans. I had never wanted anything as much as I wanted to be at that table right then. If I could just enter that inner sanctum, every door at Easton would open up to me. I would never have to worry about being accepted or fitting in. I would be leaving my own crappy, depressing home life so far behind maybe I could manage to forget it altogether. (p. 31)

 Reed, given the charming nickname of Glass-Licker by Noelle, the undisputed leader of the Billings inner circle that Reed is dying to be a part of, has left behind a loving and supportive father and a mother who admitted she hates her own daughter. She manages to get a scholarship to help pay her way at prestigious Easton. She meets an intriguing boy, Thomas Pearson, who seems to be interested in her.  And then she is invited to sit at the table with Noelle and her cohorts. It looks like Reed is getting everything she wants. But at what cost?

Okay. Here’s the thing: I was a misfit growing up. There were all kinds of badness in our family, and I was the weird kid in my class who dressed funny (because my mother has no sense of fashion or appropriate attire for kids) and who was the teacher’s pet (because I was smart and didn’t know that wasn’t the way to make my peers like or respect me). When I was in 6th grade, a gang of boys from my class would run to their homes so they would be there to throw rocks at me as I walked past them on my way home.  See? Total misfit.

So the idea of a smart girl going to an elite school and not fitting in intrigued me. It could be good, I thought. And it could have been. But it wasn’t.

Not one character in the story is likeable, with the exception of Reed’s father, who only appears at the beginning scene and in a few phone calls. Everyone else is just ugly. I prefer to read books with sympathetic characters (which is funny, because I’m writing one with an extremely unlikeable protagonist, but that’s another story for another day). I disliked how Reed folds so quickly and buckles to every whim of the Billings girls.  She does stand up for herself a time or two, but it doesn’t take.

No one learns anything. No one does anything praiseworthy. The people you think you’re safe in rooting for end up to be thoroughly despicable.

To be fair, the book is well written. Brian handles her characters deftly. With some more likable characters, I might find myself interested in perusing the sequels. As things stand, however, I am done with Reed and with Easton.

Honestly, I wavered back and forth between the rating. My initial inclination was to give it a D. I hated it that much. But because it was well-written, I thought of a C, and that’s actually how I scored it. But on reflection, I decided to split the difference and go with a C-.

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About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
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8 Responses to Review: Private

  1. Bumbles says:

    For me personally, a well written story will never overcome horrible characters. I felt this way about The Widow’s Children. Lovely language, descriptive scenes, good flow of plot. Terrible characters. Not one redeeming one in the bunch. That means no desire to care. And if I don’t care, why am I reading this? I think you were too kind – I would have given an F+ ;0)

  2. izzybella says:

    Yeah, I’m with Bumbles. I have a very strict 100 page rule. If it still sucks 100 pages in, I’m done and moving on. Life is too short for bad books.

    • Yeah, I know. But I kept reading it because I kept hoping that Reed would eventually learn to stand up to the Billings girls. She did, briefly, once, but it didn’t take. I found it very annoying.

  3. kaye says:

    I can’t stand characters who don’t have any backbone and just follow the crowd. It’s hard to like a book when you can’t stand any of the characters – there has to be something redeeming in there somewhere. Sounds like a C- was more than generous.

  4. Margot says:

    A story with no likeable characters goes against my principles about people and the world in general. There is always some little gem of goodness in nearly every person and/or group of people.

    During my career I met thousands of people and had to deal with some pretty despicable characters so I know the bad ones when I see them. However, I noticed there was always some aspect to the “bad guys” that was likeable.

    I’m sure some people would call me Pollyanna but I feel sorry for people who see the world differently, as I imagine the author does. Perhaps, since this is a series, her next book might be a bit brighter. Not sure I want to spend my reading time finding out. I think you were generous with your C-.

    • Margot, you may well be right. I looked–briefly–at a few reviews for some of the sequels, and they just sort of reinforced my lack of desire to read any of the others. There are something like 15 or so books in the series, so obviously someone’s liking it.

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