First published in: 2006
By: MTV/Pocket Books
When Miranda, a slightly spoiled but spirited fifteen-year-old from Chicago, smashes up her father's car and goes to town with her stepmother's credit cards, she's shipped off to Bard Academy, a boarding school where she's supposed to learn to behave. Gothic and boring and strict, it's everything you'd expect of a reform school. But all is not what it seems at Bard.
For starters, Miranda's having horrific nightmares and the nearby woods are eerily impossible to navigate. The students' lives also start to mirror the classics they're reading tragic novels like Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. So Miranda begins to suspect that Bard is haunted by famous writers who took their own lives and she senses that not all of them are happy. Complicating things even more is the fact that Ryan Kent a cute, smart, funny basketball player who went to Miranda's old high school landed himself in Bard, too. And the attention he's showing Miranda is making some of the other girls white as ghosts. Something ghoulish is definitely brewing at Bard, and Miranda seems to be at the center of ominous events, but whether it's typical high school b.s. or otherworldly danger remains to be seen.
Well, the first thing I liked about this book is that it's dedicated to me. OK, so it doesn't mention me personally, but the dedication page says "...and to all English teachers everywhere." I'm an English teacher somewhere - I'll take it.
I picked this book up expecting it to be nothing but cute fluff and it fits that description. Miranda's narrative voice is written in that Meg Cabot-style of teen-speak: lots of observational humour and pop-culture references. Some of these references are already dated in 2011 (Ashton Kutcher and Punk'd, Heath Ledger as a teen heartthrob instead of a Hollywood tragedy), but the book does succeed in being funny and made me laugh quite a bit. Most of the characters are pretty fun and I have to give Cara Lockwood credit for including some non-white characters, which unfortunately is not as common in YA as it should be.
The premise is what attracted me to Wuthering High and I did get a kick out of all the literary references. For an adult reader with a decent knowledge of literature, working out who the teachers are is like completing a child's crossword puzzle - too easy, but sort of satisfying to get it right all the same. And it's great that this book might make a teen reader seek out some of the classics. However, while the idea of having teachers be dead authors and fictional characters come to life makes for some nice in-jokes and a few thrills, it falls apart when an explanation is given for it (it's just silly) and I felt it was a misstep for the book to suggest a dire, end-of-the-world scenario because of the real world/fictional world colliding (it's a light-hearted book; no need to tack on serious consequences).
I know some may feel that life's too short and there are too many important novels out there to bother reading a book like Wuthering High. It's also true that it you want a fun, light read, there are 'fluff' books with stronger positive messages, like Elizabeth Eulberg's The Lonely Hearts Club, or with cleverer world-building and plotlines, like Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series. But I'm not gonna deny enjoying this one and the next time my brain feels over-worked and fried, I might just pick up another in the series.
Rating: 3.5 stars