*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, with thanks to the author and publishers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: ‘This very good school is nothing but a fancy promise, a broken one. A big lie.’
The powerful, glamorous and privileged students of Fullbrook Academy gather for a secret party in the woods.
A party that ends in disaster.
The Fullbook traditions are sacred. But they can hide dark and dangerous secrets.
Jules is in her senior year with one goal: to get out and start her life at college.
Jamie is a sports star on a scholarship; Fullbrook is his chance to escape his past.
Can they both stand together against Fulbrook’s most toxic traditions?
Tradition explores some very serious and timely issues around rape culture and the different treatment afforded to girls in the education system in this specific context. In the current media storm around #MeToo and the repeated appearance of the girl-sent home-from-school-due-to-clothing story, this book forms part of the important conversations that we need to have about what we teach our children about their value and place in society.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints from two main protagonists, one male and one female, one new to the school and one all-too-familiar with its traditions. This dual perspective allows the author to layer explore different perspectives, but ultimately both main characters share the same values, they just have different experiences of male privilege and female oppression.
That Brendan Kiely takes the issues he is exploring seriously is not in any question, as he maintains a sombre, almost menacing tone throughout the story which steeps the reader in anxious tension from the first page.
This strength is also something of a flaw in the story however, as combined with the dark tone, the emotional tension of the two main characters starts high and builds quickly. Jules in particular is distraught, almost-frantic, over health flyers and tampon protests from our first introduction to her. This effectively emphasises the looming sexual threat that fills the corridors at Fullbrook Academy, and shows that the main characters are aware and affected by this traditional old-boys atmosphere. It also leaves the author nowhere to take the characters emotionally by the time the crisis event occurs.
Jamie, or Bax, is also tightly wound, but this can be attributed to the secret trauma in his recent past, but Jules seems traumatised before The Event (and evidently rightly so – the atmosphere is undoubtably toxic) and therefore during and after the turning point of the plot her reactions can only slightly escalate and the reader is almost desensitised to the dramatic tone by the finale, which I am certain is not the effect the author intended.
I did really like the character development and relationship building, especially those between Jules and Javi, Javi and Max, Bax and Aileen, Javi and Bax. I especially liked that friendships once formed had to be maintained and worked on. Likewise the ending felt realistic and proportionate, with no huge events but a small pebble of change that may eventually gather an avalanche.
Overall this is a serious and thought-provoking book, with little action but a lot of emotional weight.
Way up in the sky the man in the moon has something like sad eyes, as if his pale face gazes down with pity, as if he wishes something better for us, or maybe wishes we ourselves were the ones who were better. I’m sure I’m sober, not drunk, just going a little crazy to think like that, but I think it anyway, because I feel that way. Sad. Like this whole stupid paradise, this very good school, is nothing but a fancy promise, a broken one, a big lie. And worse, that I’m actually a part of it.
– Brendan Kiely, Tradition
You can buy Tradition on Amazon right now!