From the author of It’s Always the Husband comes a riveting new suspense novel about privilege, power, and what happens when we let ambition take control.
For Rose Enright, enrolling in a prestigious New England boarding school is the opportunity of a lifetime. But for Rose’s vulnerable twin sister Bel, Odell Academy is a place of temptation and danger. When Bel falls in with a crowd of wild rich kids who pressure her into hazing Rose, the sisters’ relationship is shattered. Rose turns to her dorm mother, Sarah Donovan, for advice. But Bel turns to Sarah’s husband Heath, a charismatic and ambitious teacher. Is Heath trying to help Bel or take advantage of her? In a world of privilege, seduction, and manipulation, only one sister will live to tell the truth.
In a novel full of twists, turns, and dark secrets, Michele Campbell once again proves her skill at crafting intricately spun and completely compelling plots.
Back to She Was the Quiet One, its attractive and smart packaging, namely gorgeous cover and mysterious title, prompted me to read it, as was the case with It’s Always the Husband. Unsurprisingly, Michele Campbell recycled the school setting she had used in the first part of her previous novel and I suppose she is comfortable writing about and well versed in scholastic experiences, given the Ivy League education she had pursued. This time, she delves into the boarding school experience from the perspective of both teachers and students, hence an avenue distinct from the one explored in It’s Always the Husband, where she dealt with the college environment, albeit to a lesser extent. Even though at first glance it may seem that the two books by this author resemble closely one another by virtue of school setting, I assure you it is not the case and you can safely choose She Was the Quiet One as your next read in this regard.
I was at first happy to notice that Campbell had moderated the embellished phrasing overutilized in her preceding publication and opted for a more reader-friendly style of writing. However, the more I read from the novel, the more artificial and forced the characterization and some dialogues appeared to me. The main characters were inconsistent with their actions and not clearly defined and I felt that their behavior changes were merely a means to advance the plot and justify the murder. The absence of elaborate characterization was fairly problematic as I believe this had been intended to be a highlight of She Was the Quiet One, considering that the plot development and reveal of the perpetrator’s identity were predictable. Despite the mystery not being challenging enough and my disappointment with the characters, I was somewhat contented with the build-up to the climax, because the events prior to that took place in a logical order. I furthermore liked the chapters consisting of transcripts of various witness interviews about the relationship between the twins as I found this suspense-heightening technique reminiscent of that employed in Big Little Lies.
Plotwise, She Was the Quiet One has four protagonists along with a fairly important supporting cast. Bel and Rose are fifteen-year-old fraternal twins who had previously lost their father and are now faced with their mother’s death. Consequently, the twin orphans go to live with their rich grandmother on their father’s side who soon decides to enroll Bel and Rose at Odell Academy, an elite boarding school. Still grieving over her mother’s decease and wary of the idea of learning and living at a pretentious educational institution, Bel does not want to attend Odell Academy, whereas her conscientious and energetic twin, Rose, is exhilarated by the opportunity of having access to the top-notch education she had not benefited from while living with her poor mother in Los Angeles. While at Odell, the personality differences between the twins become all the more evident, they have intense arguments and alienate more and more from one another. Ultimately, one of the twins is murdered. Is the other twin responsible for committing sororicide? At the same time with the twins arrival at Odell, Sarah and Heath Donovan, mathematics and English teachers respectively, are looking forward to starting their new job as dorm heads of Moreland Hall, an Odell residential home having gained a very bad reputation that does not align with the values promoted by the boarding school. Sarah and Heath were appointed to this function in the hope of fixing the damaged reputation and bringing about the desired order. They also hope that having success in this endeavor will further their careers at Odell Academy.
Overall, She Was the Quiet One is a relaxing, delectable and decently written book, perfect for summer, that reads quickly and is enjoyable as long as you can overlook its flaws. I recommend it to those looking for a reading experience opposite to the maturity and sophistication of It’s Always the Husband.
I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for supplying me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.