Review: Under the Rose

Under the Rose: An Ivy League Novel – Diana Peterfreund

Senior year at Eli University kicks off inauspiciously when a botched initiation night leads one of Rose and Grave’s new recruits to bail on the whole society.  The first club to have female members in its 177-year history, their battle last year against the society’s “patriarchs” hasn’t united them as much as exposed the cracks in their camaraderie.  And now, both current members and patriarchs are receiving threatening, and specific, emails asking for money in return for silence about the society’s practices and the scandals of its members.  They try to band together to roust the traitor, but with everyone under suspicion, they find themselves drifting apart and different factions begin to form.

Amy, the narrator, has grown up a bit since the last book.  She’s still insecure about some of the wrong things, but it doesn’t take as much for her inner toughness to come out.  She’s smart and relatable, and this time she gets to have some hot (and moderately explicit) sex.  While I would add the first book in the series to YA collections, this one isn’t as neat a fit there.  But there’s nothing so objectionable that a teenager should be discouraged from reading it. 

It’s hard to discuss some of the themes of the book without spoiling the plot, but one of my main objections was what seemed to be the author’s blind spot about something, that turned out to be just the character’s, and ended up being dealt with well.  And I enjoyed how a lot of the characters were allowed to act like people and make mistakes and to be an ally or enemy depending on the situation.  It also tackled religion without being scornful of the whole enterprise, just the wackos.  I liked that the way the plot unfolded was true to to story that had been told all along.  There’s a lot of juicy wish-fulfillment, but also a lot of big ideas about networks and power and success and how women fit in.  I’d invite Amy Haskel to that dinner party I’d like to have with Frankie Landau-Banks.

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3 responses to “Review: Under the Rose

  1. Flawed characters versus flawed authors is always a tricky thing; it is hard to trust a writer, especially in things like YA (a formative niche).

  2. @mordicai: it is tricky, and was trickier with Vampire Academy than with this book (which isn’t published as YA, btw). It was a thing where I wanted to shake the character and make her understand that the very thing she was railing against was a thing she was herself doing. But the story didn’t acknowledge this fact until it turned into a plot point.

  3. Well, right– & in both instances (more so in this one, right?) those turn out to be things that the character is “learning.” A storytelling bludgeon, but better than getting preached at.

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