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When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do… or think they do.
Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian.
Rating: 2.75 stars
Content warnings: underage drinking, death, fire, and consensual, non-explicit underage sex.
This was very… different from what I was expecting. Let me explain.
I purchased this book for $1 at a sale one day because it sounded interesting enough and it has been sitting on my shelves ever since. I finally got around to it and when I checked out the prologue and reviews, I genuinely thought that it was going to be an amazing read.
“I could not tell you now, then, or really ever who I loved more – only that I did love her, and him, and them all with a fierceness that I didn’t know was possible. They say there is nothing like your first love, but they have little to say about loving two people at the same time- or an entire family.”
Do you know how excited that little paragraph got me!? I typically get bored easily with love triangles but the writing was beautiful and the reminiscent feel of those words- ugh, it pulled me in.
And then it was kind of boring for the rest of the book.
This story is about a girl named Charlotte who attends an all-girls private school. She’s been at the school since her freshman year when she meets Julia Buchanan in her third year back. Julia’s new but well known for two reasons: 1) her family comes from old money, and 2) her now deceased sister attended and graduated from the private school shortly before her death.
When the two girls meet, they instantly click, and the story basically revolves around the relationship between Charlotte, Julia, and Julia’s entire family. Now, before I dive any deeper, I wanted to state that it’s revealed almost immediately in the beginning of the story that Julia is a lesbian. I honestly expected, what with the whole spiel about Charlotte loving her, that something more than friendship was going to grow between the two of them but, alas, that’s not what happened.
Charlotte and Julia have a very codependent friendship. Julia is described by her family as fragile and impulsive and reckless. Really, she’s going through a lot due to her sister’s death a few years prior, but her family doesn’t seem to fully recognize the issue for what it actually is. Instead, every member of her family becomes highly attached and dependent on Charlotte to take care of Julia. They invite her to their home on school breaks and welcome her into their family, but the pressure that they put onto Charlotte’s shoulders to keep Julia calm and safe was honestly unfair. Additionally, Charlotte ends up falling in love with Sebastian, Julia’s brother, which makes her connection to the Buchanan family even stronger.
“If I had to pinpoint one moment, pick an exact second when it happened, I would say it was that night – when Julia, Sebastian, and Cordelia stood side by side daring, just daring anyone to say anything to any of them – that I fell in love with the Buchanans.”
Now, the thing about this story is that it doesn’t feel like much actually happens. It’s fast paced to an almost uncomfortable degree. I found myself thinking multiple times that I would like the story better if so much of it wasn’t skipped. I’m the type of person who likes to read about friendships and relationships as they grow in books. I’m not a fan of insta-love or even insta-friendship (at least not to the extent that it goes to in this book). The book is 360 pages but covers two years of time, and while I think some stories and narratives can pull that off, this wasn’t one that I felt was particularly suited for it.
The pacing of the novel left out a lot of the important, fun stuff, making the speed of the friendship between Julia & Charlotte, her connection to the family, and her relationship with Sebastian all seem a little rushed and unrealistic. I know that there are tons of people who grow very close to the families of their best friends, but because the growing of the bond was not really shown, it felt like Julia’s family just immediately latched onto Charlotte in an unhealthy way.
Also, I really wanted to make a note of this: I have never in my years as a reader read a book with a whole family of manic-pixie dream girls and boys… until now. The Buchanan’s could’ve invented the trope, honestly.
While I found the writing in the prologue to be very pretty and elegant, the writing in the remainder of the book had a very different feel to it. It wasn’t bad writing whatsoever, it’s just that it was much more simple and fell flat after reading the beautifully written prologue. I’ve seen a lot of other readers talk about how very Gatsby this was, and I do think that was meant to be the intention (what with the Buchanan name and all), but I didn’t really get that feel while reading.
Overall, the story was meant to be reminiscent and an important tale about Charlotte’s past and this second family she found in the Buchanan’s. And it was most certainly that! It just wasn’t very interesting, to tell you the truth. I’m trying to think of who to recommend it to but this book doesn’t really fall under any specific categories. I guess if you want a fast, noncommittal read, this could be a good book for you? Or if you’re into tightly knit friendships with very little building of said friendship. Then this is definitely for you.
Listen, a lot of people on Goodreads liked this, so maybe I’m just too critical. Read it if you want to. Some people thought it was great. Maybe you will, too!