Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Thomas's satisfying, keenly observed latest (after The Seed Collectors) takes place at an unnamed all-girls boarding school in the English countryside, where the girls, all from well-off families, spend their one hour of Wi-Fi every day catching on Instagram and Snapchat. Natasha--Tash to the rest of the girls--has just arrived from Russia, where she'd lived a humble life with her mother until her previously absent father brought her to England and into a new stratosphere of wealth, complete with a glamorous aunt in London and an American Express Black Card. Though Tash is welcomed at the school, she also must learn the language of starvation and thigh gaps, where the girls take turns inventing increasingly severe diets for the rest to follow: no butter, no tomatoes, cake only, etc. Thomas's depiction of the image-driven hive mind that dictates adolescent girls' relationships is spot-on, and the girls get thinner and thinner, especially as they receive the tacit approval of the creepy headmaster Dr. Moone, who seems to favor the skinniest girls. When one of their group dies under mysterious circumstances, Tash realizes the precariousness and danger of this new, moneyed world of which she's now part. Though Thomas's characters get a lot of flak for being insufferable rich girls from outsiders in the novel--and they are--she's captured with an empathetic eye all the brutal, visceral, and surprisingly funny aspects of teenage girlhood. This is a sharp, astute novel. (Jan.)
The latest outing from the author of The Seed Collectors (2016) is set at an elite boarding school in England, where 15-year-old Natasha, the daughter of a wealthy Russian, has just enrolled. The girls at the school are obsessed with their weight, and it's not long before Natasha falls into the habit of counting calories and engaging in endless fad diets. But when one of the most severely emaciated girls dies in an accident, the headmaster decides to bring in experts to deal with the girls' eating disorders. The longer Natasha remains at the school, the more her suspicions that something nefarious is going on grow. Thomas has penned a sharp-eyed novel about the pressure society, adults, and peers put on girls to look and behave a certain way. When Natasha isn't at school, she's in the company of her aunt, who tells her over and over that she must hang on to her beauty at all costs. Thomas deftly explores exactly what those cost are, and the toll they take on young women.--Kristine Huntley Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Eating disorders and suspected murder fuel the latest novel from the author of The Seed Collectors (2015, etc.).The title of this slim book is as sly and slippery as the narrative itself. Our protagonist, Natasha, is whisked from penury in Russia to a British boarding school when her post-communism, new-money father takes an interest in her. She also establishes herself as one of the girls who leads the student body into disordered eating and light debauchery. Natasha's transformation includes a fairy godmother in the form of Aunt Sonja, a London-based operator who gives Natasha an iPhone with unlimited data, a black American Express card, and world-weary advice about food and men. But Natasha keeps much of her own tale to herself even as she learns the folklore of her school. Someone named Princess Augusta appears in portraits hung throughout the classrooms and residences, and her storyor, at least, the story that the students tell each otheris both a cautionary tale and an inspiration for girls striving to be the thinnest. Thomas does a fantastic job of capturing the mental and verbal style of a contemporary teen without being precious or exasperating. She also imbues Tash with a signature feature of all adolescents ever, probably: a desire to grow up faster. While Aunt Sonja is cooing over her perfect complexion, Tash is thinking, "But everyone has it, this skin that says I'm young and I know nothing. Literally everyone she knows apart from Lissa has the same skinand even Lissa's would be OK if she used the right tonerand so to compete she needs something else. Why do adults not understand that?" The Amex might allow Tash to buy Balenciaga boots, but what she really wants is adventure. She wants to "go into the woods and fight monsters"a wish that sort of comes true when people at her school start dropping dead. This is a weird, twisty book, and anyone familiar with Thomas' oeuvre will expect the kind of dark humor that is only possible from a writer of profound compassion. Strong stuff.Another strange delight from one of the United Kingdom's most interesting authors. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.