A review by thesaltiestlibrarian
The Ivies, by Alexa Donne

dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


 Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone and may not reflect the views of the author, publisher, or distributor.

A lot of thoughts are swirling around my head, and I'm not even sure where to start. Let's break it down. So you have this private school, Claflin, in Massachusetts. Sounds swanky, right? It's also cutthroat. Only a few students every year are admitted into Ivy League schools.

You know what, no, I'm going off. I can't stand it. I grew up poor and didn't even think I'd ever have the chance to go to college. But I did, because I worked my ass off in full-time online courses for two years WHILE I took care of my grandmother so my parents could work. Those online grades got me scholarships to the campus I eventually attended, and yes, I think it's good for people to study what they're passionate about. But we need to stop pushing the "college is the only option" narrative on teenagers. It's unrealistic with the way things are run right now. Education is becoming a privilege, which is absolutely not what it actually is. I can teach myself the same physics for free at the library that someone shells out $100,000 for at a college that equates in the long run to buying brand-name toothpaste: no one cares in the real world, it holds no actual sway, and is swindling you out of money you can spend on the same damn thing somewhere else.

This book didn't deliver on the narrative that it could have. We got rich people problems running amok, terrible people being terrible, and no real discourse on how education elitism is poisoning the post-secondary tracts that should ultimately be free or HIGHLY reduced in-state. The whole motive in this book was so ludicrous that I very nearly stopped reading at the 89% mark. Private school is a sham, Ivy Leagues mean nothing, and standardized testing only measures your ability to take a test and memorize crap.

The writing was fine, I couldn't have cared less about any of the characters, and the narrator was no more innocent or lovable than the nearest Fannie Mae CEO. Nothing about these people was redeemable. No one tried to redeem themselves in any capacity. The only reason I'm not more pissy is that this actually had structure and plot that held me. Olivia's whole "we're not the same, sis" attitude got old FAST, and I can't believe she was surprised at her friends' horrible actions.

The reason I AM pissy is the lack of indictment on college scandal and the price of education. If Donne had just taken that extra step, THE IVIES would have been absolutely scathing. But we got a run-of-the-mill YA mystery that actually left me feeling that Donne approves of the current state of affairs. If you're looking for the next Holly Jackson, this ain't it. If you're looking for societal commentary, it's not here. This book is a reflection of Ivy Leagues: promises a whole bunch and delivers only disappointment and a time commitment you can't get back. 

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