Book Review: Private

Kate Brian. Private.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. 227 pp. $8.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4169-1873-8

This is probably the only book I’ll be able to review in the “Self-Torture Book Challenge.” Why? Simply put, I give up. I’m crying “Uncle” because the thought of reading another book in this series would, I imagine, be a lot like spending time in Hell – or a week with Paris Hilton before she was sent off to jail.

Sure, the book Private by Kate Brian, is marketed to teen girls, so it’s a no-brainer to think that a 42 year-old man (i.e., me) would actually enjoy this kind of story. But the challenge was to see if I could get through it, and I did! Not only was I able to read the book in a couple of days, but I promptly forgot what the story was about after finishing the last page.

That’s because the book is not so much of a story as it is exploration of the mind of a 15 year-old girl who reads an awful lot into the actions, words, and looks of those around her. Indeed, it’s any wonder this girl can do anything else but obsess over her life as a “scholarship girl” at an upper crust boarding school — and the popular girls who make up the student population.

The tale is fairly simple: Reed – a middle class girl from Croton, Pennsylvania – is admitted to Easton after her father promotes Reed’s talents as a soccer player. She’s a shallow (but supposedly book smart) girl who is impressed with the displays of wealth at the school. She is determined to “make it” at Easton and before long, finds herself in the company of one of the most powerful cliques in the school: The Billings Girls. Reed is just an underling/plaything for the Billings Girls, but it’s clear they are eyeing her for admittance into their dorm – and with it, all the benefits of that particular and peculiar rung of high society. She meets the obligatory boyfriend (Thomas) who is initially understanding, caring, and, of course, rich. But ultimately Thomas turns out to be a flake – who, interestingly enough, also deals drugs on the side. After Reed gets into a fight with (drunk) Thomas at an outdoor party, Thomas accidentally pushes Reed causing her to fall. The Billings Girls are there when this happens, and the incident is a crucial moment when Reed goes from underling to A-list candidate for admittance to the Billings dorm. The reason? The Billings Girls detest Thomas and rally around their injured newbie. After that, it was about 30 pages to the predictable ending: Reed becomes a Billings Girl during some creepy “stand around in a circle with robes and candles” ceremony.

What I took from this book is this: it must be tough to be a teen girl. The scrutiny and ridicule one must endure from the “Queen Bees” in the popular cliques sounds excruciating. And if there’s a moral to be discerned from this story, it is probably best summed up with a line from the movie Heathers: “Dear Diary, Heather told me she teaches people life… She said “Real life sucks losers dry. If you wanna fuck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly.” I said, “So, you teach people how to spread their wings and fly?” She said “Yes.” I said, “…You’re beautiful!”

But unlike Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers, Reed is willing to sell her soul so she can fly with the eagles. Who knows if things change later in the series, but after book one, it is quite clear Reed’s “deal with the devil” will only result in more tortuous events and situations in the subsequent novels.


Pink “Stupid Girls” (Listen HERE)

Garbage “Stupid Girl” (Listen HERE)

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