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Reviewed by Amanda Rofe for Readers' Favorite
The Nine by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg is a novel about the Webber family and their experiences with an elite boarding school. Hannah and Edward enroll their talented son in the exclusive Dunning Academy despite the exorbitant cost. The difficulty of keeping up with the fees was not to be their most pressing problem. Hannah does not cope well with Sam living away from home. The more she pushes for contact, the more he pulls away and her obsession with him comes at the expense of her marriage. At the academy, Sam is lured into friendships with teenagers from more privileged backgrounds. Their wealth and an unwritten code of conduct, which comes naturally to them, is something that Hannah is unable to compete with. Sam is asked to join a secret society within the school. Revered and steeped in history, it organizes sophisticated pranks. However, rather more sinister goings-on are afoot which Sam unwittingly uncovers.
The Nine is an absorbing novel with a compelling storyline which exposes the frightening way those in positions of power are easily able to sexually exploit vulnerable children. This is more pronounced with boarding schools that can disenfranchise parents and isolate children in their care. There were a number of engaging characters including Hannah who lost her son's teenage years to the live-in aspect of the boarding school system. The emotions she experienced and her subsequent behavior were intimately described and her pain was palpable. Sam was a self-effacing teenager with a satisfying personality and I felt a tremendous amount of empathy with him. Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg seamlessly blends a mix of coming of age school drama with sinister adult conspiracy and intrigue.