A Darker Mischief

Scholastic. Jul. 2024. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781339009933.
Gr 9 Up–After “the incident,” Cal Ware is shipped away from his small southern town to Essex, an elite boarding school in New England. Dreams of camaraderie are quickly shattered by the coldness of Cal’s classmates and their derision for his transfer status, accent, clothes, and lack of wealth. Lost, anxious, and hopelessly awkward, Cal stumbles onto what appears to be a secret society meeting one night held by students wearing formal attire and carnival masks. Cal is soon formally “tapped” to be a member of The Society of Seven Eyes, a group that claims to be about discovering and mapping all the hidden places in Essex but may have much darker motives. Participating in the selection process brings an injection of much longed-for confidence and belonging to Cal, leading him to take greater and greater risks in order to stay in the group. Among the member hopefuls, Cal meets Luke, an impulsive artist who immediately seems to take a romantic interest in him. Riddles, break-ins, conspiracies, and strategically dropped clues about Cal’s past successfully build abundant tension, making this a page-turner from the beginning. The romance is equally fraught and dramatic, which will certainly appeal to readers who enjoy toxic love stories. An abrupt ending that feels incongruously neat and tidy when compared to the melodrama of the first 95 percent might ultimately disappoint some readers, but this is still a solid choice for teens who crave mystery and secrets in an elite academic setting. Cal identifies as gay and is white while Luke is bisexual and Asian American.
VERDICT A first purchase for high school libraries.

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