Review: Tradition

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

I’m usually all for boarding school novels, that’s why I picked this one up. Especially since there are students, Jules and new student Jamie, that want to just survive this year of school as well as expose the academy’s dirty secrets and traditions.

There are hints right away as to what some of the major ‘traditions’ are at Fullbrook Academy, which oozes with toxic masculinity across campus. The culture on campus basically normalizes treating girls like sex objects and even rape culture. It’s a subject that definitely needs to still be tackled in young adult fiction, and I applaud the author for doing so. While the topic was approached sensitively, I feel like the story still fell short.

The story is very slow paced and hard to stay interested. The real content of the story doesn’t even begin until at least halfway through the book, which leaves not as much time to develop the aftermath of what happens. There’s not much emotional depth to what happens with the character who was assaulted and honestly after something like that there should be more than what there was. For a little while there’s something, a mini-spiral of sorts, but I just feel like there would have been more given what was also being said on campus. Because of the slow pace and lack of emotional development, I didn’t really get too invested in the characters like I usually do, which made it hard to connect with them on any level.

I do like that they and their friends decide to stand up against the tradition of the Senior Send Off, even if it seemed a little soon after what happened. They take a stand against the privileged white males of the school to try to show them they can’t get away with it.

Again, I do admire the author tackling this topic as it’s so important and shouldn’t be ignored, but I feel like if the story had been at a quicker pace and there was more character depth, it would have been better and I personally would have been more invested.

Rating: 2.5 stars

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