From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Brendan Kiely, a stunning new novel that explores the insidious nature of tradition at a prestigious boarding school.
Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.
Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.
Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.
When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.
As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?
Tradition by Branden Kiely
Published on May 1st 2018 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Tradition was a hard book for me to read. Not only is it a depiction of rape culture but also of the individual perpetuation of it. While reading this book I couldn’t help remembering my own high school days and college days; the gross behaviour I had witnessed both from male students and female students as well as teachers, and how even into college nothing had seemed to change. The narrative of Tradition, especially Julie’s, feels like the voice I should have had.
Set in a prestigious boarding school, Fullbrook Academy is an environment where teachers pay no heed to the doing of students, where money and prestige are prioritized over the students’ well-being. Patriarchy is at the heart of Fullbrook’s culture; it is an environment teeming with toxic masculinity, creating a vicious cycle ripe for abuse, and demonization of those who go against it.
Brendan Kiely writes a dual perspective – male and female – to convey the story. I enjoyed this method a lot because from one point we see someone who fights openly against the traditions of Fullbrook and from another point we see someone trying to fit in and yet questioning the behaviours.
Julie is what people would call a quintessential “fem-nazi”; although she was discriminated for constantly fighting against the status quo, and labelled as crazy, Jules never let up. It was so sad seeing even the female population of Fullbrook going against her even though she was fighting for them. It reveals clearly how manipulative society can be and how even we as women can perpetuate the harmful behaviour.
I especially loved how Kiely handled Bax’s journey. He was turned into some sort of hero for Jules or given a huge redemption arc for his past, instead, we find Bax stumbling through the toxic environment –trying to fit in and yet resisting it as well. His situation wasn’t easy either being on scholarship and having to prove himself to his parents and coach. It was like he couldn’t do without being on good terms with his team mates but he also couldn’t stand their gross behaviour. It really shows that we do have a choice in what we choose to support. It’s not a simple, “that’s just how the world is” ideal, but rather a “does it have to be that way?” Bax’s journey was gradual but so satisfying to read.
Tradition was written with empathy and thoughtfulness that, although not in depth, addressed issues of homophobia, devaluation of women, and also how silence contributes to rape culture. This was in no way an easy read but it was worth every moment.
Below I’ve collected some articles that I believe will be helpful as we try to better understand,
Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), The Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His work has been published in ten languages, received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, and was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.
As part of the tour, five copies of Tradition by Brendan Kiely is up for grabs! Open to US residents only, the giveaway is until May 10.
Thank you to Fantastic Flying Book Club for hosting this book tour! You can check out the entire tour schedule here.
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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