Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Macmillan | Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.
The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.
Thoughts on The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
Last year, I fell head over heels in love with Julie Berry's All the Truth That's In Me. And when I say in love, I'm talking in my top six books of 2013. Written in second person, the book was emotional and haunting... and ever since, I've wanted to read more from Berry. While she has a few books on her backlist, it was this upcoming release that caught my eye.
Normally, I don't read very much middle grade. I'm always open to it, but I don't often find titles that appeal to me. It might be because I sometimes think I'll have a hard time connecting to the characters at that age, but The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place proved that there are definitely middle-grade books out there that can capture my heart!
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place takes place in Ely, England, in 1890. It follows seven girls enrolled in a finishing school called St. Etheldreda's School for Girls. But, as the very beginning of the book reveals, this isn't the story you might expect! At dinner one night, the headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her brother, Mr. Godding, suddenly die. All signs point to poison, and the girls realize there is a murderer on the loose. But who is the guilty one? And what will happen to them when their parents find out? Determined to stick together, and desperate for a bit of fun and freedom, the girls decide that they will hide the bodies and cover up the murder. What could possibly go wrong?
Y'all, this was the most charming, hilarious and adorable murder mystery I've ever read! The tone is completely different from All the Truth That's In Me, so don't start this one expecting a similar feeling. If you've read that one, clear it out of your mind before starting this one. You want to approach this without any pre-conceived notions of what Berry will do. Of course, Berry's writing still shines - just in a new way! This is one is silly, quirky and comical. But it's also sweet, sassy and a seriously great read.
One interesting thing I noticed was that All the Truth That's In Me is historical fiction, but it's very vague on the time period. I loved that about the book and thought it worked perfectly for the story Berry was telling, but I was curious if that would be true of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, too. The summary makes it clear that the story is set during the Victorian period, but I wondered if would you see those details. I'm happy to report that Berry's research is so evident in this book, but in interesting and subtle ways. From women's roles to the setting, I think readers of any age will walk away with new information about the time period!
One thing to keep in mind while you're reading - The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a farce. A farce "is a comedy that aims at entertaining the audiences through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable." I think it's important to remember that about this story because many of the situations in this book are a little unbelievable. But if you just go along with it, you'll find yourself laughing at the banter, cheering on the friendships and wondering who could be responsible and whether people will realize that shenanigans are afoot at St. Etheldreda's.
The multitude of characters and Berry's use of a naming convention (adjective + girl's name, such as Stout Alice) made it a little confusing at first, but I found that I caught on pretty quickly and couldn't put it down after that. You don't get to know the characters very well and they feel a bit like caricatures at times, but it really didn't bother me. This was just a fun, delightful read!
I couldn't help grinning from ear to ear while I was reading The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place! It's so different from All the Truth That's In Me, but it gave me a new appreciation for Berry's creativity and talent. This tale of murder and mayhem is ultimately an ode to friendship and fun, and I enjoyed every second of it. So much so that I just had to buy a copy for my shelves!
And since it's so adorable, I can't resist sharing the book trailer:
"She didn't care what they said. She would never, never, never allow herself to grow to be a noodle-headed young lady whose brains had been sacrificed on the altar to boy-worship."*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.