The St. Ambrose School for Girls

Gallery. Jul. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781982194864. $27.99. THRILLER
Ward, who writes contemporary romance as Jessica Bird and paranormal romance as J.R. Ward, makes her latest a coming-of-age novel set in 1991—the era of Guns N’ Roses, early Nirvana, and Sarah Taylor, who arrives at the St. Ambrose School for Girls. The author skillfully weaves the tale of Sarah, who recently received a bipolar diagnosis, as she navigates an elite boarding school. At St. Ambrose, she feels alone and friendless, but quickly finds that her roommate, Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, has her back when she is targeted by Greta Stanhope, the dorm bully and their next-door neighbor. Although Sarah’s experience is the focal point of the first half of the book, the second half is filled with twists as it turns a dangerous corner into a mystery involving sexual abuse by an adult resident-assistant, cover-ups of student violence, and even murder. Readers will learn, along with the protagonist, that people are much more than what they project on the surface.
VERDICT Mental health, friendship, loyalty, jealousy, corruption, and love all have a place in this highly recommended novel that takes readers on a roller-coaster of events and emotions that the characters experience.
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