Author: Carol Goodman
Genre: Fiction/Teen Fiction/Supernatural/Boarding School/Fantasy
Summary: At sixteen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended - and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes… Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all. - Penguin, 2013.
Blythewood is Carol Goodman’s first teen novel. It’s the first book in a trilogy, so I have two other books to read before I can give a true in-depth opinion of the world and Avaline’s story.
I’m tempted to say that Blythewood is like Harry Potter for girls, but that’s not quite right. The girls aren’t witches so much as defenders of the human realm who use magic to aid in that defense.
Having read Goodman’s adult novels, the elements she writes about are not entirely new to me. She loves New York, she loves mythology and magic so that’s what she writes about. I’m not criticizing her in that regard. She’s sticking with what she knows so more power to her. This is also the first novel in the trilogy so I can’t criticize it too much without having read the other two books.
The stereotypes of “teen girl gets thrown into new school” are present and accounted for - the shy girl, the stuck-up rich girl with her cronies, etc. You might be inclined to roll your eyes, but, as art imitates life, there’s not much you can say about it. I think Goodman might even get more criticism for not having those stereotypes. It’s not quite high school without those types of girls.
I’m a little concerned with Avaline because she’s veering toward the “Mary Sue” trope. What I mean by this is that she has the special powers only “rare” people have, she has a gorgeous love interest, and is in the middle of a quasi-love triangle. She also has that “ugly duckling to swan” moment near the end of the novel too. Avaline does have her faults and it’s not like every single character thinks she’s perfect so it’s a mixed blessing. Her low self-esteem doesn’t stem from her naivete, but rather her life experiences. Avaline is a likable character - I’m just concerned that she might be too “perfect”. I’m really hoping she develops more faults or I might not enjoy this series as much.
Goodman develops her world very quickly and doesn’t create new creatures so you’re not spending a lot of time learning about the world through exposition. You learn about it as Avaline learns about it so there’s never a time where you feel like the story is dragging.
The romance of the story is kept to a minimum, but I have a suspicion that it’ll be a big focus in the next book.
Overall, it is an enjoyable book, in spite of my concerns, and I’m looking forward to
reading the other two.
I give Blythewood an A-.
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