Secret Society -- Tom Dolby
Phoebe Dowling, New Girl in Chadwick's junior class and Artist.
Nick Bell, up-and-coming Club Promoter and Youngest Heir to a New York Dynasty.
Lauren Mortimer, Fashionista and Socialite.
Patchfield Evans III, Old -- as in, it no longer exists -- Money and Aspiring Filmmaker.
The first three receive invitations to join The Society, a (duh) Secret Society that promises Unparalleled Success in return for their Obedience and, of course, Secrecy.
Patch doesn't receive an invite, but that's not going to stop him from getting into the initiation -- and filming it.
After the initiation, it quickly becomes apparent that There Is More To The Society Than Meets The Eye (in a bad way), and that Getting Out Might Be A Whole Lot More Difficult Than Getting In. Afterwards, things get stranger and more uncomfortable, and all four characters realize that they might be in way, way too deep.
And that's all before the first death...
Tom Dolby sticks to describing objects and clothing by material rather than brand (except in the case of Lauren the Fashionista, but in her case using labels made sense), which is actually a quite effective way of conveying the super-rich lifestyle that most of these characters enjoy. Occasionally, though, he really goes overboard (to make up for the lack of brand names elsewhere?) and bombards the reader with four-to-six brand names in a single paragraph, which can be a bit.. much. (If you think it's odd that I brought that up first, wait until you read it -- there's so much cashmere and ivory and crystal and tweed and leather and satin and tiger maple that it's easily the most striking thing about the writing style.)
Other than that, for the most part, the writing is inoffensive, if uninspired (it's the plot that'll keep the reader reading). But sometimes, the rhythm gets all out of whack and the prose get unnecessarily convoluted and reads like dialogue that would get CUT from a soap:
"Think about it, Phoebe. You know how there are certain deaths where no one ever really knows what happened?" She named an actor who had died the previous year of mysterious causes in his hotel room. "Remember how there was a big scandal for a week and talk of an investigation, the cover of US Weekly, the whole works? And then everyone just forgets about it? The same thing will happen. People will forget about [SPOILER]." She started crying.
I mean, I get that using Heath Ledger's name would date the book, but it would have made for much more believable dialogue.
Despite passages like that, I found Secret Society to be oddly enthralling. If I'd been in the wrong mood, I'd have thrown it across the room, but I happened to be in the right mood, so I ended up really enjoying myself. More than anything else, it reminded me of Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods* **. Which is fitting, as she blurbed it.
*Which I HATED. But, A) I'm, like, the only person on the planet who hated it, and B) after my reaction to this one, I'm willing to admit that my hatred may have been partially mood-driven.
**There's no fantasy element, but it's got the New York setting and the privileged rich kids and the Big Secrets, so there you go. It's a big soap opera/mystery, and sometimes that's exactly what's necessary.
More Secret Society Fun:
Secret Society Girl, Under the Rose and Rites of Spring (Break), by Diana Peterfreund
The Eternal Ones, by Kirsten Miller
A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by e. lockhart
Theodosia Throckmorton and the Serpents of Chaos, by R. L. LaFevers
The Books of Fell, by M. E. Kerr
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher
Book source: ILLed through my local library.