All Girls by Emily Layden
It’s the start of the school year at the prestigious Connecticut boarding school, Atwater Prep, sexual assault accusations surface and create waves throughout the school. A former student accused a male teacher of raping her twenty years ago and has recently come forward to sue the school. Over the course of a year, the students try to make sense of the accusations and continue their long-honored traditions, while the administration desperately tries to maintain the reputation of the school.
All Girls is broken up into sections of about 30 pages, each focusing on a different student as the year progresses. It follows students from all four grade levels, socioeconomic statuses, and reputations. Overall the book felt more like a series of short stories centered around the same topic rather than a cohesive novel. The one thing that pulls the story together is the underlying arc, the sexual assault scandal at Atwater, and the cryptic accusations that surface throughout the year. I enjoyed the story, but I wish the story focused on a few of the girls. There were a few characters I wish I was able to revisit, but the dozen or so different perspectives offer a more broad view of the student body and the school’s vibe as a whole.
Some of the boarding school elements and traditions reminded me of the Private book series by Kate Brian, although All Girls follows multiple characters where the Private series only followed one, and the plot is much less dramatic. The style reminded me of J. Courtney Sullivan’s works, so if you’re a fan of hers, you will likely enjoy this book.
Thank you to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the advanced copy. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis from Goodreads
A keenly perceptive coming-of-age novel, All Girls captures one year at a prestigious New England prep school, as nine young women navigate their ambitions, friendships, and fears against the backdrop of a scandal the administration wants silenced.
But as the months unfold, and the school’s efforts to control the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary girls are forced to discover their voices, and their power. A tender and unflinching portrait of modern adolescence told through the shifting perspectives of an unforgettable cast of female students, All Girls explores what it means to grow up in a place that promises you the world––when the world still isn’t yours for the taking.
About the Author
Emily Layden is a writer and former high school English teacher from upstate New York. A graduate of Stanford University, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, The Billfold, and Runner’s World. All Girls is her first novel.