Private by Kate Brian

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Private by Kate Brian

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Set in an American co-ed boarding school, Private will appeal to teenagers more than their parents, with its mixed messages about the consequences of your actions. It is, though, a good story - and part of quite a long series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1416932437

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Fifteen year old Reed Brennan wins a scholarship to Easton Academy, a co-ed boarding school, only to realise that everyone there is rich and sophisticated. She also discovers that being one of the brightest students in her old school is simply not enough to get by at Easton, where some of the students are terrifyingly bright. It's better than home though. She's close to her father, but her mother is a pill-popping nightmare who thinks nothing of humiliating her. Throughout her childhood it was easier not to have friends and to keep herself to herself, but that's not going to be the way forward at Easton. How's she going to cope?

Well, some of it's good, some of it's bad and some of it is downright ugly. I had mixed feelings about Reed; she's not the traditional Cinderella figure who comes from a poor background and makes good through her virtues. This girl has the difficult background but she decides straight away that she wants to be a Billings girl – that's the elite clique – and she'll do whatever she has to do to become one of them, or even just to be tolerated by them. Well, she won't do anything but it's not far short.

Getting her grades up to scratch doesn't come down to hard work but to working out what the questions are going to be, to discovering the quirks of the teachers. Sex? Well, that seems to be without consequences. Getting in with the 'right' crowd comes down to being a doormat. OK – we know that life works out this way some of the time – but it is disheartening to read about it. In fairness there are good messages about the perils of alcohol and Reed is definitely against drugs.

But – this is a good story and it's going to appeal to teenage girls if not necessarily to their parents. There are a lot of the themes which interest and concern girls in their early teen – friendships, relationships with the opposite sex and how to cope in a difficult environment – and although I might not find Reed admirable as a heroine, she's definitely going to appeal to her peers. She's got guts and determination and when the chips were down she realised that there were things that she wasn't prepared to do. You just wonder why she finds the Billings girls so admirable.

The book ends not so much with a cliff-hanger as a feeling that you haven't got the whole story and there are even a couple of chapters from the next book in the series to reinforce the feeling. The chances are that if you buy this book you're going to end up getting all ten in the series.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of Private: The Book of Spells by Kate Brian.

For more fiction that will appeal to this age group we can recommend Miss Understanding: My Year in Agony by Lara Fox - a sharp and funny page-turner that makes a great summer read as an anonymous teenage agony aunt blogs the highs and lows of her life.

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Buy Private by Kate Brian at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Private by Kate Brian at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Private by Kate Brian at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Private by Kate Brian at


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