Killing November was fabulous. There, I said it. The rest of the review is pretty much just extra. I had a lot of fun with this book, and seriously- this might be one of the more twisted schools I've encountered. The academy here is completely off the grid- no electricity or anything- and is super secret, a proving ground for the offspring of movers and shakers in society. There's more to it than that though, although for spoiler reasons I won't say anymore. At any rate November wakes up at the school- how'd she get there? How long will she be a student? No one knows- and if they do, they're not telling her.
November is immediately in over her head, paired with another student named Layla, who is not amused, and she has to adjust as best she can. The only thing she does know is her father sent her there to be safe, but it appears she's anything but! She has a target on her back from the outset, and half the time at this school it appears as if the faculty may be in on the game as well, so it's super dangerous. Oh, and they don't take regular classes- instead they take knife fighting or archery, poisoning- you know, stuff like that.
They're not just being trained as assassins, though. It goes a little deeper than that. November has to earn Layla's trust (and can she really trust anyone?) while at the same time figure out why everyone seems to hate her. Clearly a lot of people know more about her than she herself does! November is confident though, and athletic- her father trained her in survival skills growing up- so she's not completely defenseless. Just way behind everyone else. Or is she?
I loved the cast here. Layla grew on me, the villains were almost as interesting at times, and honestly- I wasn't sure who the villains were. There are shades of gray, reasons for things that happen, and of course the past. Aarya is a wild card, someone who calls November out right at the outset, but is she just toying with her, or does her animosity run deeper? I was super intrigued by Ines, who is one of the top students and an ally of Aarya- there's one scene where November and Ines are forced together and I loved it. Also the love interest- Ash- is he on the up and up?
If there's anything I didn't like, it was the realism factor I guess. I mean these kinds of stories are a dime a dozen in YA, right? Secret boarding school, who can you trust? But here by making the secret society so interwoven with history and prior events, it almost seemed too much, and yet too simplistic at the same time? The reality would be so much more complicated if this were real. But apart from that, I enjoyed this so much, I need the next book right now.
I'm going to gush about the characters for a moment. I had a blast trying to figure out who to trust (answer: probably no one), and even November's allies were questionable to me. I kept waiting for the next betrayal or shoe to drop- you never know what's coming- and I also like too how the author took the gloves off a bit. There's a particular scene that was super intense. Loved it.
Does Brendan really hate her? Is Ash trustworthy? What's the deal with the headmaster and the director of assessment? Can November trust anybody? I almost want to turn around and read it again!