Kate O'Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She's determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.
There's one girl in particular that catches Kate's eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she's a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.
When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia - an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.
I don't tend to read psychological thrillers but I'm glad I gave this one a try, even though it was super creepy. It tells of two girls: Kate has learned to depend only on herself, she's quick-witted, ambitious and not afraid to hurt someone to get what she wants. And what she wants is Yale. Olivia is just as smart but also privileged, the typical rich little girl who has never had to fight for anything.
The different perspectives were interesting. It was first person in Kate's head, so we could tell when she was lying, when she was distracting attention; and it was third person for Olivia, so all the information we got was very surface-based. We did get some insight into her background but not a whole lot and often only what she was willing to share out loud; also we couldn't tell what she was thinking a lot of the time. It became obvious that both girls were using the other: Kate needed Olivia for a home and, if she's lucky, her influence, while Olivia needed a friend and support at home while her dad was away for work. As the book progresses, it becomes less clear who is using whom exactly.
There were a lot of secrets, like way too many! Kate's past in particular was a whole slew of lies and desperate secrets, but also the truth behind Olivia's absence from school and her new medication. Then there was Mark. He was an amazing character; horrible yes but very interesting to read about. He was brilliant at his job, the flirting and schmoozing of the bigwigs at the school, but he was also slimy. When we first come across him, Kate pegs him as an excellent liar and, for want of a better word, a con man. Mark was definitely always working an angle and the way he could worm his way into the girls lives made my skin crawl.
This was all set in a competitive elite school, where getting into a good college was as much a daily influence as mental anxieties and drugs. This I could handle but I was not really prepared for the darkness that came with Mark's presence in the story. If Kate and Olivia's lives weren't messed up enough, why not bring in a predatory, handsome man who likes to collect secrets and girls? All in all, this was a shocking, un-put-downable read that kept me guessing until the very last page.
Published 12th January 2017 by Hot Key. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.