Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.
Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.
Title: The Ivies
Author: Alexa Donne
Release Date: May 25th 2021
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller
Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: Lesbian main character, Black side character, Korean side character, half Black side character
Trigger Warnings: A joke about an eating disorder (chapter 1), mention of covid-19 (chapter 2, chapter 19), mention of rape (chapter 2, in reference to a literary character), underage drinking (mentioned in multiple chapters, on page chapter 4, chapter 8, chapter 13, chapter 16, chapter 26, chapter 27), physical fight (chapter 5), vomiting (chapter 6), discovery of a dead body (chapter 6), murder, mentioned death of a family member (chapter 8), mentions of cat fishing (chapter 10), mentions of gay-baiting (chapter 12), blackmail, relationship between a student and staff member (17 yo student, 24 yo staff member), assault (on page, chapter 21), references to a past relationship between step-siblings (before parents were married), being held at gunpoint (chapter 29, chapter 30), racist comments (chapter 31), police
A huge thank you to Turn the Pages Tours for having me on this blog tour and to the publishers for providing me with an ARC!
If I had to describe The Ivies in one word, it would be wild. Upon finishing The Ivies, the first words out of my mouth were, “THIS BOOK IS FREAKING WILD” and honestly, I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it.
There are a few things that I think a book absolutely needs to be categorized as a good dark academia mystery/thriller: an unreliable narrator, a gripping mystery with lots of twists and turns, ruthlessly ambitious and morally gray characters, and insane amounts of drama. The Ivies has all of that and then some.
I was hooked from the first page. In fact, once I started I don’t think I stopped until I was around 60% through, and the only reason I stopped was because I needed to sleep (ugh that pesky thing that gets in the way of reading time). The story was dramatic and over the top and I was addicted. I loved how descriptive the writing was; it was so easy to picture everything that was happening. I felt that the plot twists and reveals were done extremely well. They made sense with the direction the story was headed and there was the right amount of shock factor without it seeming completely out of left field. The plot twists had the desired effect and kept me interested and eager to continue reading. The vibes felt reminiscent of both Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, two of my favorite teen dramas, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually saw a screen adaptation as the writing also felt very cinematic.
The overall mystery was incredibly thrilling. I liked that it wasn’t super obvious which character was going to die right from the get-go. There were two characters that I thought would be the victim at the start and I flip flopped on which one of them I thought it would be. I wasn’t completely sure until just before we found out. Once it was revealed, the mystery just kept developing. I definitely found myself putting on my sleuth hat and trying to piece together all of the information. Honestly I was almost considering starting an online murder board to keep tack of all the possible suspects and their motives. There was so much information; the story just kept building and building and when it finally came to a head it all made sense.
“Something is wrong. I feel it in my bones, like when you enter a room and know people were just talking about you. Or like a ghost walking over your grave. My mom always says that, though it doesn’t really make sense. And yet…that feeling.”
I really liked the characterization, especially when it came to “The Ivies” themselves. The characters felt well developed, fully realized and layered. I think it would’ve been easy to fall into predictable stereotypes with the girls of “The Ivies” – Olivia, Avery, Sierra, Margot and Emma – and while they definitely had aspects of the “stuck up popular girl” stereotype (especially with the ringleader Avery), Donne didn’t rely on that character type alone while writing which I really appreciated. Though Olivia, our narrator, did definitely fall into the “scholarship kid who is part of the popular group but because they’re not rich like the others there are things they keep her out of” trope, which I think is a little tired, I wasn’t super put off by it. As the story developed, so did the characters. The side characters were also very interesting and each time someone new was introduced I couldn’t wait to see how they fit into the overall story.
When it came to figuring out who the killer was, I think I suspected every single person at some point, besides the main detective (and honestly even at some points I thought she was a bit sketchy), and I loved that. I couldn’t trust any of the characters, and that made me even more excited to continue reading and discover the truth.
The Ivies is perfect for anyone looking for a good dark academia mystery that will keep you hooked from start to finish!
Enter to win one (1) finished copy for The Ivies by Alexa Donne! This giveaway is open to US residents only.
Giveaway starts: May 23rd, 2021
Giveaway ends: May 30th, at 12:00am CST
Click here to enter. Good luck, everyone!
Alexa Donne is the author of Brightly Burning and The Stars We Steal, YA sci-fi romance retellings of classics set in space out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her next YA, THE IVIES, a thriller set in the world of competitive college admissions, will be out in May 2021 from Crown/Random House. A graduate of Boston University, she works in TV marketing and has done pro bono college admissions mentoring since 2014. A true INFJ, in her “free” time she mentors with WriteGirl, runs the Author Mentor Match program, and manages one of the most popular writing advice channels on YouTube. She lives in Los Angeles with two fluffy ginger cats named after YA literature characters. You can find her in most places @alexadonne.