Monday, September 17, 2018

The Academy by Quinn Anderson

True love stabs you in the front.

Nick Steele just wants a normal life, cliché or not. He had one once, back in Chicago. Before his father died and he took a year off from college to grieve. Now, he’s starting fresh at a prestigious—but tiny—Catholic university. Adjusting to small-town life will be a challenge, along with making friends and keeping his scholarship. All he wants to do is blend in, get his diploma, and go back home.

But Sebastian Prinsen—campus heartthrob and a notorious player—has other plans. He notices Nick right away and makes a bet with his two best friends: Who can kiss the new kid first? Nick seems immune to Sebastian’s charms, and yet genuine chemistry sparks between them. Even worse, real feelings do too. Sebastian falls more and more every time Nick blows him off, but if he comes clean about the bet, Nick will hate him forever.

The last thing Nick wants is to fall in love while he’s still grieving, but Sebastian feels like home to him. Nick wants that so badly he may ignore the warning signs and risk his fragile heart once more.

Author Note: The Academy, is a complete rewrite of my first novel, In Excess, which is out of print. Like, I gutted it. The plot is similar in places, but I feel confident saying it's a different book.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Nick is the new guy on campus, arriving at a private Catholic college, which is filled with young adults who have been in school with one another since kindergarten. It's a tight-knit group that's nearly impossible to get into – either you're in our you're out. Then there is the angst and fear of coming out as bisexual in a religious setting...

The initial setup weaved an air of mystery, almost to paranormal levels. The comparison to Twilight I'm about to make is not an insult, only making that leap due to the fact that I just did two Saga marathons back-to-back and read half of the first book. Once a Twihard, always a Twihard.

Shiny new toy

Anyway, Nick is the new guy on campus and stumbles upon a dining hall table filled with ethereally beautiful men. Otherworldly acting, the first contact between Nick and Seb hooked me and sank its claws in deep. Not reading the blurb before jumping at the chance to read the novel, I went into it blindly, so this mysterious air did feel paranormal, even though I knew deep-down it wasn't. Intrigued.

Nick is an orphan who is grieving the recent loss of his father/best friend, after taking bereavement leave from school. Unable to afford tuition without his father, Nick is forced to take a scholarship far from his beloved city of Chicago. Nick may be a hard character to connect to for most readers, I believe, but he and I share a spirit animal.

Detached. Logical. Nick is looking for authentic friends, not wishing to play the mating dance filled with lies, evasions, and peacock posturing. He doesn't feed into lust, no matter how strong the pull may be, needing more authenticity from Sebastian. But he's a bit too stuck on himself, coming off as judgmental and emotionless at times, because all of their early interactions are tainted with phoniness, even when Seb accidentally reveals his true self.

Sebastian is the playboy, the boy every boy wants to be noticed by in order to become popular. Rumors swirl everywhere Seb steps, and Nick easily buys into them, simply because Sebastian always seems to be acting, never being real.

Nick and Sebastian are both equally flawed, which draws them into 3D characters who are realistically lifelike. There were times I wanted to wring their necks, but it fit their personalities as well as their ages, 20 and 21, juniors in college.

Push-pull tension, filled with a love-hate vibe, this slow-burn romance is a character evolution as two main narrators come to terms with their feelings as they grow up. Nick and Seb's interactions are filled with banter and frustration that waffles between lust and raw emotion.

A minor romance is formed by Seb's meddling best friends, Theo and Dante, who share a few pages of narration. They added a bit of emotion and humor to an otherwise tension-filled novel.

I love to be surprised... there's a bit of a twist that left me shocked, and that's a very difficult thing to do. This forced me to see the novel from another angle, appreciating how it unfolded, and simultaneously rooting for and blaming all four narrators equally – neither good nor bad, all equal due to human nature.

As always, I highly recommend Quinn Anderson to fans of MM romance, especially if you want a mix of humor, tension, angst, lust, and romance.

This is a sweet and angsty young adult read. Set at a tiny private university, this is the story of Sebastian, the campus playboy prince, and Nick, a scholarship transfer student.

Both Sebastian and Nick are troubled kids. I say kids because they both read as very young college students and their tiny, insular campus feels more like a Gossip Girl-style high school than a university. For the most part, the story is Nick’s and readers slowly learn about the recent tragedy that reshaped his life.

If Nick is as likeable as an angry, grieving young adult can be, Sebastian had me wary from the start. I was ¾ of the way into the story before I felt any empathy for the predatory and entitled young man and I still don’t quite believe in the significant character changes that make him likeable and trustworthy at the end.

As for the storyline, early references to the film Cruel Intentions might give readers a sense of the basic plot. Sebastian and his friends start the story with a bet involving Nick. Fortunately, a lovely and unexpected plot twist near the end saves the story from becoming too predictable. I enjoyed the sexual chemistry between Nick and Sebastian and I really liked the intensity of the many friendships in this story.

Quinn Anderson earned a master’s degree from the University of Dublin in Ireland and is also a University of Florida alumna with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She began writing books, poetry, and fan fiction at fourteen years of age and was first published at nineteen. Her favorite authors include Gail Carson Levine, Libba Bray, Tamorra Pierce, and T.A. Barron. A nerd extraordinaire, Quinn draws inspiration from pop culture and makes far too many obscure references. Quinn’s favorite thing to write is witty dialogue, and her favorite thing to read is a slow burn.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Academy by Quinn Anderson to read and review.

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