At Grimrose Académie, an elite boarding school, students are dying in mysteriously familiar ways. Three friends, Ella, Rory, and Yuki, are reeling from the apparent suicide of their best friend, Ariane, unsure if she really did commit suicide or if something more sinister is at play. When Nani comes to the school and takes Ariane’s place in her room, she joins the friends in investigating Ariane’s death. Hidden in Ariane’s things is a book of grim fairytales filled with scribblings and names. As the body count at Grimrose Académie grows, the girls come to discover the dark truths of the book that may hold their own twisted fates.
This is a dark and compelling mystery with elements of fantasy and realism intertwined in the story. It’s pretty grim and gruesome, but at the heart of the story is a solid mystery and a thoughtful tale of friendship.
The first thing that struck me about this book is the variety of representations in the cast. Ella and Rory are cued as white, Yuki is cued as Japanese, and Nani is Black and Native Hawaiian. There’s bisexual, asexual, lesbian, and transgender representation in the main characters and this is treated as commonplace, without extra comment. Rory is dealing with chronic illness, Ella has OCD and anxiety and is a survivor of domestic violence. There’s also a wide variety of family structures represented in the characters. I thought it was a delight to read such a diverse cast and felt that the complex issues were addressed thoughtfully and realistically.
There are multiple mysteries at play in this story, some of which are resolved and some that I’ll be anxiously awaiting in the next installment. First is the mystery surrounding Ariane’s death- whether or not she committed suicide. Then, there’s the mystery of the book of fairytales and its connection to Grimrose Académie and the girls. There’s also the mystery of who is responsible for the other deaths at Grimrose Académie which are made to look like accidents. And finally, there’s a mystery surrounding Nani’s dad. I really enjoyed how multilayered the story was, even though I was able to solve the main mysteries pretty early on in the book. Though, as I always say, I consume a lot of true crime so the mysteries may be harder to solve than Ithink.
This book blurs the lines between fantasy and realism and the fun of the book is guessing which characters connect with which stories. While some of the stories are a little on the nose, Yuki for example whose name literally means Snow, others are a little harder to puzzle out. I enjoyed riddling out the mystery of the book alongside the girls and guessing at the gruesome ways in which characters would die.
CW: death, graphic injuries, OCD, anxiety