The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton

This is a book that made me think about my own school years and the intensity of friendships during those times and how they can still play on my mind so many years on. This is a clever book to conjure up these thoughts within myself that’s for sure. I enjoyed reading it, I found the style of it- writing both in the present and then going back to the past- worked really well enabling me to get a good insight into the main characters which then had be really drawn in.

Josephine has just been awarded head girl at her prestigious boarding school. She’s on track to win the scholarship for a guaranteed place for Oxford and all she can really think about is ensuring that she achieves that but there’s more to Josephine than hard work. She is struggling with her mother’s illness and worries that she too could develop it- paranoid schizophrenia and this paranoia alone is enough to make her question if it is indeed developing. Her father has a powerful position working for the Prime Minister so she is under pressure to ensure his reputation remains in tact… thank goodness she has a best friend who she can rely on…

Freya and Josephine are like sisters, they do everything together and their families are equally as supportive of them both but something happens one night and it causes their friendship to spiral out of control which leaves both girls vulnerable and making some really poor choices that results in them both being completely out of their depths.

The problems that arose due to this time still affects them both many years later during their adult years.

What was brilliant about this book is that there was a sense of mystery which hung throughout as we didn’t know what had happened between the friends to cause such a rift. This mystery wasn’t so big that it meant we couldn’t understand the story but it was gradually hinted at and bits of clues given which makes you think about why it was so dramatic. I think it was just the right level of intrigue to keep you wanting to keep reading without it feeling like an important part of the story was missing.

What this book did was make me think about what it’s like as a teenager under pressure and how to everyone else it may look like you’re acing everything and heading straight to Oxford but that actually, underneath it all, there can be some very big struggles going on which people don’t realise and this book captures that really well. It also captures the insecurities of the teenage years, how much you really rely upon your friends and that when a friendship starts to become strained it can really affect everything as feelings of jealousy, mistrust, sadness and anxiety arise which as a teenager can be very overwhelming and this book really describes that well.

The characters within this book are drawn up well. Freya and Josephine are the two main characters and I really did get a proper sense of them. At moments in the book the paranoia of Josephine was really powerful as i began to question Freya’s motives too. I wanted to bang their heads together and get them to start talking to each other and sort it out… but of course teenagers are too proud to do that! The best relationship within this novel is that of Josephine and her father. I found it very touching. It wasn’t a close one but it was a steady one, when things went wrong her father was there and supportive throughout it all and I thought it was very tender.

I enjoyed reading this book because I wanted to know what was happening so I kept turning those pages but also because it made me think about my own teenage years and how influential friendships can be upon your whole futures.

This is Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel and I’m looking forward to her writing book two as I’d love to know what else she has up her sleeve.

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