Look up trigger warnings! There’s a lot around sexual assault and abuse of power.
Genre: thriller, serial killer, dark academia, lgbt; f/f relationships, queer women, two bisexual female protagonists
Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.
Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan… until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.
Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay… and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.
Sometimes I feel the books with a really interesting plot/synopsis that feels targeted at me, is the ones that let me down the most. It’s got a very good goodreads rating too. I just couldn’t get over how much I didn’t like the writing, as in the language used being cringy and constantly taking me out of the story. There’s two f/f queer friendship (both POVs are bisexual women) that turn sexual at certain points, both ending up very different. It’s all very intense and dramatic, yet it fits into the story. And there’s enough twists to the characters and the plotlines that I did enjoy reading it, even if it was built on somewhat one-dimensional characters.
I first blamed it on the fact that writing a serial killer is difficult, and it still could be, but it’s the same problem with the student Carly. Because in many ways she’s supposed to showcase the start of a girl turning cold and ruthless by the experiences and total lack of support in the systems, like being ridiculed by school administration when trying to help her friend after a sexual assault. It was a nice comparison, even if it was laid on a bit thick with even the professor Scarlett pointing out how she saw a young version of herself.
I have to state that there’s nothing wrong with these “unlikable” female main characters that made me dislike the book, as I often prefer them. In general, the author seems to be known for writing those well. I also want to say I whole-heartedly disagree with some other bad reviews claim that all the rapists weren’t equally bad and so on, it’s showcased all the way why the serial killer chooses her victims and the actions they’ve committed. I had to stop reading those reviews quick to not get sick, as they excuse sexual abuse so blatantly. It’s not meant to be feministic in how you should cheer on a serial killer, that’s up to the reader, but in showing how a culture of abuse and sexual assaults can be protected against those who want to report it. And that’s not far-fetched at all in today’s society, even if it shouldn’t have to defend itself as fiction.
Is it dark academia? Absolutely, it’s a look into a professor/murderer’s mind set on an university campus, trying to avoid persecution. The student’s POV even shows how her experiences and obsessiveness with helping her friend and keeping up with writing leads her into a darker path than she could imagine. It definitely showcases the potentially worst sides of an (academic) institution with abuse of power from everyone in charge.