Author: Sophie Cleverly
I knew I was going to get some kind of kick from Scarlet and Ivy before I even started reading, I have a weakness for girl-power and boarding school stories. However, even with my heavy bias this book deserves all the praise I’m about to give it as, for those who follow my reviews, you know a good premise is never enough for safe critical passage.
The story wastes no time with starting, we spend maybe three pages with an unhappy Ivy, stuck living with a terminally scatter brained aunt and mourning the death of her sister, before she’s pulled into the boarding school spot her late sister vacated. But not only has Ivy taken her sisters space, she finds herself having to pretend to be Scarlet, while she tries to uncover the mystery behind the notes her sister left behind.
So yes, big mystery. It’s the best kind of mystery writing too, the kind where, if you pay close attention, you can figure it out yourself, instead of waiting for it to be explained. I felt more and more engaged with each clue as I tried to beat Ivy to the metaphorical punch.
Unsurprisingly, with the theme of boarding schools in the 1930’s and a mystery there are some quite gothic elements. However, instead of beating you over the head with great creaking doors and pathetic fallacy forever hovering over the gargoyles on the roof, Cleverly just weaves strange elements to sit in the background and watch the reader. There’s a teachers office filled with taxidermied dogs because the teacher claims to like seeing them dead, a chilling sequence which forces Ivy to push her hand into a skeleton’s mouth. It was all little things like that that brought the school to life, while still giving off a palpable feeling of unease.
So, the story itself was intriguing. Then you couple it with Ivy. She’s one of those characters you can’t help but love, torn between her own shy self and needing to act the part of her brash sister made for some interesting character moments. I think my absolute favourite was a snap, very bad, decision Ivy makes that she can barely tell whether it is her own or her acting going too far. The girls around her make up a good cast as well, even the girls giving her a hard time are never truly bad, everything is shown evenly and the friend Ivy finds is just so cute I want to bundle her away.
I can’t say much more, I don’t have any major complaints. It was just a good book, with characters I liked and a story that stayed interesting. I think anyone over the age of ten could enjoy it.
Put it this way: I read it in a day.