I love good twin/bad twin stories, and She Was the Quiet One was a boarding school drama filled with enough scandals and soapy fun to keep me reading into the night. When orphaned sixteen-year-old twins Rose and Bel Enright enrol in The Odell School, they almost immediately find themselves at odds with each other. Good twin Rose fits right into Odell’s competitive academic climate, finding a group of friends among the straight-A, student council types. Bad twin Bel immediately falls in with the popular crowd, a group of mean girl bullies with a running dare to seduce their handsome English teacher Heath Donovan. Heath’s mousy wife Sarah is the school’s math teacher and Rose’s adviser.
From the beginning of the book, we know a murder has been committed. We don’t know who the victim is or what the motive could have been, only that the police are investigating and it somehow involves the twins. Michele Campbell takes us from witness testimonies to flashbacks on the incidents that led up to the crime, and it’s a pretty thrilling ride.
The drama kicks off when Bel and her friends commit a cruel act of bullying and online harassment on Rose’s roommate, and Rose’s testimony becomes central to the lawsuit the victim’s family files against the school. Things escalate when Heath lets Bel off with a lighter punishment than her friends, and rumours begin to circulate that they’re having an affair.
I loved reading all the drama. Rose is way more uptight than Elizabeth Wakefield ever was, and Bel was much more screwed up than Jessica Wakefield ever allowed herself to be, so it was great to see them playing off each other. Unlike the Wakefield twins, there seems to be little love lost between the Enright twins, and only near the end do we realize that at least one of them actually did care for the other.
Sarah and Heath’s story was equally compelling, especially in the beginning. Heath is such a charming character, and I like how Campbell slowly lets us in on his darker side, particularly based on an incident from his and Sarah’s past. Sarah in turn is such a sympathetic figure, and while I often felt frustrated by her wilful blindness on certain topics, I can also see why she’d try so hard to hold on to her illusions.
The latter half felt dragged out though, and some of the characters keep making some really stupid decisions just for the sake of the plot. Like, if you have suspicions about someone, why would you go to where they are rather than go to the police? And if someone’s telling you they were attacked and there’s physical evidence, it seems honestly petty to immediately assume they’re lying and staging the evidence, just because they’re inconveniencing you in some way. All that kind of stuff kept the plot going and the tension increasing, but it got a bit eye-roll-y after a point.
Still, overall this is a fun read, and I enjoyed all the soapy drama.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for an advance reading copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.