The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

When author Jennifer Miller contacted me through Goodreads to recommend that I read her book, she had clearly done her research. She’d seen how much I enjoyed Special Topics in Calamity Physics and figured that her debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, would be right up my alley. Its part coming-of-age story set at a New England prep school, part mystery that spans 13 years and three perspectives, and all sinister secret societies, gothic architecture, and intrigue.

Iris’s recent loss of her best friend, not to mention being caught by her concerned parents while talking to her imaginary mentor, Edward R. Murrow, land her in a new school in a new town with a new start. Wanting to become a hard-nosed reporter, dedicated to discovering the truth and uncovering injustices in the world, Iris joins the school newspaper, The Oracle. Her pitches for stories are repeatedly rejected in favor of fluff pieces, and Iris begins to nose around into the reasons behind the cover ups and lies that seem so rampant at Mariana Academy.

The history of the school begins to unwind, slowly at first, and then more and more quickly. The story skips between Iris, her biology teacher Jonah Kaplan (a Mariana Academy alum), and Lily Morgan, a classmate of Jonah’s who grew up in the house that Iris’s family now rents. Jonah and Lily’s stories intertwine and skirt around the truth of what happened at Mariana 12 years before, leading to the death (or perhaps suicide?) of Jonah’s brother (and Lily’s boyfriend), Justin.

I don’t want to say much more and spoil anything for you, so pick this up and try it out for yourself. And if you enjoy this one, be sure to take a look at Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman and The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

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