The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe Review

Monday, December 23, 2013

Title: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Author: Joanna Wiebe (Twitter)
Publisher: BenBella Books
Publish Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Mystery
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.
There is something to be said for cross-genre books that simply refuse to be confined by one genre. Since the paranormal genre has truly seen its heyday in the past few years, I've avoided it like the plague, but The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant piqued my interest with a premise that promises readers a little bit of everything. From murder mysteries, to drama, to action, horror, paranormal and a touch of romance, this book takes no prisoners, giving readers a little bit of everything in a book that, for being rather slim in terms of similar novels, packs quite the punch. Author, Joanna Wiebe, weaves us into a world that's dark and alluring, but still accessible, reminding us that high school really can be hell.

The setup behind The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant develops rapidly, and as the action quickly picks up, we can't help but become invested in this extremely off-kilter town and school. It seems as though every character in the novel has a story of their own, each of which adds a touch more mystery and intrigue to the mix. Ms. Wiebe takes her time leading the story towards the paranormal elements, so I originally thought that we were going to fall for the "ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances trap." I was pleasantly surprised to see, however, that the novel was simply setting a very grounded stage for the supernatural elements to unfurl and really take center stage.

Anne was a delightful heroine to follow in such a haphazard tale. While everything moved and swirled like a funhouse mirror, Anne was a constant heroine that I was glad to become invested in. She has a headstrong persona, and rather than being a wilting flower like so many paranormal heroines, Anne is straightforward, smart and determined. It was easy to access her emotions and her reasoning behind her actions because they were so very human. The secondary characters also succeed. Molly was a fantastic friend and sidekick for Anne, while Harper is the quintessential queen bee that simply must have it all. I must say that I wasn't the most fond of either of the two main guys, Pilot and Ben, both of whom play a role in the slight love triangle. I never felt as though either character was fleshed out quite enough to root for them and, instead, ended up being annoyed with Ben's actions and his inactions. 

Despite this though, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant offers us one hell of an adventure from start to finish. Perhaps the biggest success of this novel, however, is the fact that it successfully navigates the paranormal and supernatural genre without ever needing to give us either werewolves or vampires to solidify its status as such. Rather, the mystery takes center stage and, while it's a big over-the-top and quirky at times, for the most part, it kept me guessing throughout, and I can truly say that I was pleasantly surprised by the end outcome.

Overall, despite a few minor hiccups along the way, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant succeeds for me in the end. After a long departure from the genre, this was a welcome foray back into the fold, and I can honestly state that I can't wait to see where the series goes next. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and mystery stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. I am all eh today, I can't concentrate, xmas tomorrow :D

  2. I'm not thrilled about the love triangle in this one, however slight, but other than that it sound fantastic. I just accepted this one for review so I'm thrilled to see you enjoyed it, and even though I'm a romance girl, I'm kind of excited the mystery takes center stage. I can't wait to dig in and see what happens!

  3. I've been looking forward to reading this book since a long time now and knowing that you enjoyed it has me excited, Melissa. The plot sounds interesting despite it being quirky at times. I haven't read a good YA paranormal book in a long time, so I'm hoping this one will be the one to be the exception. I didn't know there was a love triangle though and you know how I feel about those, but it's good to know beforehand, so I know not to keep my hopes up for the romance.
    Lovely review, Melissa.

  4. New one for me. Looks very interesting. I really enjoyed your review. Thanks!

  5. This is a great review. I've added it to my wishlist.

  6. I do like when books can reach across genres and can't be strictly defined. The triangle (shape of DOOM) is a huge black mark in my book, though. Not sure about this one.

  7. I haven't heard of this before, but Anne seems like a heroine I would love and this book is right up my alley. I'll have to add it to my TBR at once! Thanks for the review, Melissa!(:

  8. Your review is so beautifully written! I don't normally read paranormal books, but this is one I'm considering, thanks to your depiction of it. I really think it's kind of cool that all the elements are slippery and fun house-y, except for the MC -- it sounds like a formula that really works.


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