TRADITION - by Brendan Kiely

TRADITION - Brendan Kiely
Published: May 2018 - Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres:  Young adult / contemporary
Pages: 342.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Graphic scene of sexual assault / strong language / sexual innuendo / drug abuse
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

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 love boarding school stories!! The vibes are usually pretty messed up, but they're irresistible at the same time ;)

The writing is okay. It's neither here nor there. Kiely's style is easy to read, but it's not profound or brilliant or striking. However, I did enjoy the dialogue.

There is very little plot and it has no structure. It's loose, it's messy, and it's weak. Bad as this sounds, the story actually improves from the assault on-wards, which happens about halfway through. I hate to say that, but it does. Until then and even a bit afterwards, the scenes are weak and random and totally without direction. It is frustrating to say the least.

The messages are on point. The author certainly has some good points about the dangers of toxic masculinity and the horrors of rape culture. And they are good messages - the injustice and messed up handling of sexual assault and the way women are treated in the story succeeded in making me, as the reader, furious. And that's why it's there! It's supposed to come across naturally and non-preachy to make an impact, and it does.

But I still think it could've been done better. If the writing and characters were stronger, the emotional connection would be stronger, and so would its impact. While Kiely has a solid theme, he's chosen poor scenes and poor characters to actually convey his message. It's like he doesn't know how to tell a story. That's my issue.

Everything that had once felt so alive now suddenly felt so dead. That was what I wanted the world to know.

The characters are indifferent. Jules, Javi, and Aileen are cool, but they could've been fleshed out more. As for Jamie, I'm sorry but I hated hated hated him. I know he's supposed to the good guy - the guy who isn't like the other guys and who supports our uptight feminist heroine - but I found him boring, irritating, pitiful, and stereotypical. He's so perfect and so good, and it makes me want to barf because it feels fake. He feels fake. And I simply could not warm to his character.

But there is a positive ;) I appreciate how Jamie and Jules aren't a ship. I was expecting that, and I'm glad it didn't happen. I also like how friendship takes the focus instead of all the romances (Max and Javi, Aileen and Jamie).

Tradition has solid messages at its core, but its characters, plot and writing are very nearly ineffective. 

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