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Review of "Rites of Spring (Break)" and "Tap and Gown" by Diana Peterfreund

I hereby confess:  I spent the last two days devouring these books.  Devouring them. :)

I have to admit that had I seen the Ivy League novels at the library or a book story, I probably wouldn't have given them a second glance, but thanks to Goodreads recommendations I found another series that I am sure that I will be re-reading occasionally.  I only wish that Tap and Gown wasn't the end of the series.

For those that haven't read my reviews of Secret Society Girl and Under the Rose, the Ivy League books follow Eli University (obviously meant to be Yale) student, Amy Haskel aka Bugaboo, as she enters into Rose and Grave, Eli's oldest secret society.  In the first book, Amy is a Junior--her future all planned out.  She was going to be tapped by Quill and Ink, the literary secret society, and spend her senior year preparing for a job in the publishing industry.  All of this is turned upside down when the society to tap her isn't Quill and Ink, but rather Rose and Grave, which until that year had only accepted men.  A lot of crap happens that makes Amy question whether she wants to break her oaths and leave Rose and Grave, especially when the group is betrayed by one of the seniors--Poe, a guy who hadn't been keen on tapping women.  In the end, she decides to stay, beginning an interesting year filled with society incest (affairs with two other members of the society), betrayal, conspiracy, scandal, romance, and in the end the kind of friendships that last a lifetime.

In the second book, Amy is still waffling over staying in the society, especially with a national scandal involving the society looms over her head--someone is leaking society secrets, causing even more trouble with the patriarchs (the alumni).  Then, there is the pressure of lying to her best friend and roommate, Lydia, who knows that Amy is in Rose and Grave but doesn't know anything else.  (It turns out that Lydia is just jealous because she wasn't tapped by any society, despite the fact that she was campaigning for almost all of them.)  There's also Amy's ex, Brandon, who dropped her like a hotcake when he found out she made out with George (aka Puck) on the very night that she decided to be his girlfriend.  Let's just say that Amy's life wasn't very easy, so the last thing she needed was for one of her fellow diggirls, Jenny (aka Lucky), to suddenly go missing, forcing her to turn to the only accessible patriarch, Poe, for help.

The third book, Rites of Spring (Break), picks up not long after the end of the second.  Amy is on the rebound from her aborted relationship with Puck and trying not to feel jealous of Lydia's relationship with Josh (aka Keyser Soze or just Soze).  She's also worried about her senior thesis, which is due at the end of the semester, and what she's planning to do after graduation (because the only thing she was certain of was that she no longer wanted a job in publishing thanks to her patriarch sponsored summer internship).  Brandon is also back, courting her despite dating Felicity, who was making Amy's life a living hell because of some society bullshit as well as her jealousy over Amy's relationship with Brandon.  Spring Break couldn't come at a better time, and before long Amy and her friends are heading to Rose and Grave's private island in Florida.  Unfortunately, for the members of D177, spring break isn't much of a break from scandal, conspiracies, and romantic entanglements with unexpected people.  Almost immediately, Amy almost drowns, only to be saved by Poe, who as a patriarch is also invited to the island, and to whom Amy finds herself increasingly drawn, confusing her to no end.

(At this point, I was scratching my head.  It was no secret that Amy has hydrophobia, so I'm not sure why she would even want to go on this trip.  She knew that she was going to a private island, and islands are notoriously surrounded by water.  Did she not realize that she would be required at some point to be near the water and that she might just have to go in it?)

Anyway, after the almost drowning, Jamie (aka Poe) insists that Amy learn how to swim and decides that he would teach her.  Amy, suspecting that there might be feelings there, asks her big sib, Malcolm (aka Lancelot), who also happens to be Jamie's best friend, what is going on, and to her surprise Malcolm tells her that Jamie does have feelings for her and that he would prefer it if she didn't get involved with him.  Dismissing Malcolm's advice, Amy pursues a relationship with Jamie, although neither of them are willing to tell the others about their budding romance (because the members of Amy's class aren't very fond of Jamie).

Now, in my review of Under the Rose, I mentioned that I would have liked more information about Jamie in The Rites of Spring (Break) and we did get more info, but only to an extent.  We learn fairly early on that he doesn't enjoy being separate from Amy's class and that he's lonely--not that he's willing to admit it.  We also find out that he wants to be there for Amy even before he admits to having feeling for her.  He also has a strong sense of responsibility towards others, especially his society brothers, and he blames himself for a lot of things.  Last, we learn that he is head over heels for Amy and doesn't know what to do about it.  (Its a little bit sweet, actually).  I have to say that I really liked the fact that Jamie and Amy decided to make a go of it in this book, even if they had a hard time getting there--scandal and conspiracy (not to mention Amy's friends' dislike of anything Jamie did) kept getting in the way.

What I really liked about The Rites of Spring (Break) was that it added an element of intrigue into the mix.  Yes, Under the Rose involved a bit of a mystery, but this book took that to a whole new level.  It was pretty obvious that someone was after D177 and Amy in particular, but there wasn't a readily available suspect--there were several: Kurt Gehry, who orchestrated the dissolution of D176 and D177 at the end of the first book, Kadie, the wife of one of the patriarchs, who had a bit of a problem with Demetria's sexual orientation, and a group of conspiracy theorists camped out on an adjacent island.  I don't want to give anything away, but I was extremely surprised by the culprit. 4.5 Stars

Tap and Gown picks up only minutes after the end of The Rites of Spring (Break) and we find Amy and Jamie together to the surprise to the entirety of D177--well, those of them that were in the car with Amy, anyway (not everyone went on the trip to Florida, some like Josh went on other trips--he went on a tour of Spain with Lydia).  For most of the book, Jamie and Amy felt their way around their new relationship.  They still didn't really trust each other nor did they really know each other--Jamie was really good at keeping things to himself, although Amy is no slouch either.  Their relationship took up a good portion of the book, but there were other things happening too--things like a competition with rival society Dragon's Head over new taps as well as deciding who to tap (Amy had to choose 2 people where everyone else only had 1).  Amy's senior thesis and her non-existant post-graduation plans are also still hanging over her head, and she finds herself struggling to juggle her society responsibilities, her new relationship with Jamie, and finishing up her senior year (not to mention the sudden threat of expulsion).

In the end, I really liked Tap and Gown.  It brought everything full circle and showed just how much all of the characters had changed since the first book, although I am not quite sure who changed the most: Amy, Jamie, George, or Jenny.  In the first book, Amy is unsure of her role in the society, thinking that she didn't fit in and that she was an unwanted troublemaker.  She was also having commitment issues with Brandon.  By the end of this book, she realized that not only did she fit in, she belonged with this strange group of people she would never have met if it wasn't for the society.  She was also ready to be in love with Jamie, a man, who until a month earlier she actively disliked but who proved himself to be her champion.  Jamie also changed a lot from the first to the last book.  In the first book, he is this taciturn guy, who really didn't like the idea of opening his society up to women and who was working against the inclusion at the behest of the patriarchs, but by the last book he has become a bit more open, especially with Amy, and realized that what he thought he wanted for himself was not what he needed, choosing Amy over something that he thought would be the perfect job for him.  George, too has changed.  For the first three books he is the society lothario, sleeping his way through Eli's female population.  He is a bit disaffected by the silver spoon that he was born with and doesn't really care about anything that is going on in the society.  In the end, however, he finds himself in a committed relationship and heading off the join a charitable organization.  Last, there's Jenny, who in book two almost destroyed the society because she was convinced that her fellow diggers were devil worshippers.  Not only does she find herself falling in love with someone that her parents would disapprove of, but she also ends up employing a large chunk of her class after graduation.

The only thing that I did not like about the last book was the fact that Malcolm was largely absent.  In the first three books, he was a somewhat big presence in Amy's life because he was her big sib, but in this book they don't even communicate.  There is no mention of Amy emailing him or trying to call him.  At first he was a bit of a crutch for her, but he was also a friend, so the fact that they didn't even interact when he was on the Eli campus for initiation night felt wrong.  I suppose he was still angry with her for getting involved with Jamie, but that doesn't really make sense--his argument in book 3 was that Amy would hurt Jamie, but if anything Jamie was the one doing the hurting.  This doesn't, however, take away from my enjoyment of the book, allowing me to rate it 5 stars.


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