The Year Of The Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

The Year Of The Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Contemporary, suspense/mystery
Length: Full length (371 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

“Do you know what it took for Socrates’ enemies to make him stop pursuing the truth?”

“Hemlock.”

Storied, fiercely competitive Mariana Academy was founded with a serious honor code; its reputation has been unsullied for decades. Now a long-dormant secret society, Prisom’s Party, threatens its placid halls with vigilante justice, exposing students and teachers alike for even the most minor infraction.

Iris Dupont, a budding journalist whose only confidant is the chain-smoking specter of Edward R. Murrow, feels sure she can break into the ranks of The Devil’s Advocate, the Party’s underground newspaper, and there uncover the source of its blackmail schemes and vilifying rumors. Some involve the school’s new science teacher, who also seems to be investigating the Party. Others point to an albino student who left school abruptly ten years before, never to return. And everything connects to a rare book called Marvelous Species. But the truth comes with its own dangers, and Iris is torn between her allegiances, her reporter’s instinct, and her own troubled past.

The Year of the Gadfly is an exhilarating journey of double-crosses, deeply buried secrets, and the lifelong reverberations of losing someone you love. Following in the tradition of classic school novels such as A Separate Peace, Prep, and The Secret History, it reminds us how these years haunt our lives forever.

Darkness seems to follow Iris everywhere she goes. With a haunted past, starting over seems like the obvious answer. It’s not easy being a socially awkward teenager when you’re talking to a friend that really isn’t there.

Iris is a complicated fourteen year old. She’s got a stubborn streak a mile wide–what teenager doesn’t? She’s an aspiring journalist, which adds to her budding curiosity to find the truth about everything. She’s definitely got her flaws, but it makes her all the more interesting. And the newest venture at her strange high school creates a moving and fast paced trip into a world of secrets. Iris won’t leave a stone unturned. If you’ve got secrets, my friend, this girl will find them. And exploit them. Beware, readers, beware.

Though Iris is a fourteen year-old leading character, the book isn’t very well suited for that age group. There’s some cursing that doesn’t seem right for a younger age. Ms. Miller pulls off quite an interesting story, not only from Iris’s point of view, but from two other characters as well, one dating back to the year 2000. The story weaves the past and present together through these three different characters, two of which are written in the first person point of view, and the other is in third. The atmosphere created in the book is full of suspense and oddness. I came away from this story with a sigh of relief, as the tension was skillfully amped up until the last page was read.

The Year of the Gadfly can be read by older teens, and adults. It’s a strange tale, but one that I enjoyed reading. If you enjoy a quirky heroine as narrator, tons of secrets within the wall of a high school, and wonderfully crafted narrative pique your interest, then the Year of the Gadfly awaits you.

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