First things first, a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills for sending me this title in exchange for an honest review.
‘”Please don’t let them take me!”
I knew enough Urdu to understand the girl’s desperate plea.’
We meet Riley in a marketplace in Karachi, where her dad’s the US ambassador. When a local girl called Farida begs Riley to save her, she can’t resist stepping in. Farida is about to be murdered, simply for seeking an education. Riley won’t let that happen on her watch. Approaching the would-be killers, she takes them down while hardly breaking a sweat.
Riley is worried after the marketplace confrontation. Thanks to her behaviour, her family might find themselves shipped off to a far less desirable location. Karachi is her home. She doesn’t want to be anywhere else.
But Riley doesn’t get a choice. Her actions get the attention of higher ups back in America. Within a day, she’s offered a place at the esteemed Harrington boarding school. Not as a student: as an undercover agent on a mission. Hayden Frasier, the daughter of Stephen Frasier, attends Harrington. Because Stephen is creating an app that will crack any code instantaneously, there are fears that his daughter might be in danger. She could be used as a pawn, to get Stephen’s software to fall into the wrong hands.
Riley is terrified. She’s seen Gossip Girl and 90210 – she knows what upper class teenagers are like. All her life, she’s been home schooled. She knows she’s going to get eaten alive. But the chance to be on her own mission, to prove herself to her father, is too tempting. Faster than seems possible, she’s on a flight to America.
When Riley arrives at Harrington, it quickly becomes obvious that there’s more going on. Hayden’s old roommate and best friend, Rose, died in a car crash a week before the school year started. Her new best friend, Quinn, has her sights set on Riley, and she’ll stop at nothing to take her down.
Everyone thinks Hayden’s life is in danger, but will Riley be able to survive her first year at private school?
Reminiscent of Ally Carter’s Embassy Row trilogy, ‘A Dangerous Year’ is utterly absorbing. Don’t start it before bed: you won’t be able to put it down. From the high-adrenaline marketplace confrontation to the cliche-free high school setting, Kes Trester has written one hell of a debut.
Rather than resorting to romance, she makes the relationship between Riley’s crush and her mission the focus. Riley likes Sam and he likes her, but despite trying to convince herself to act on her feelings, she can’t. Her mission is her priority. Riley is sensible, level-headed and a complete badass who’ll quickly become a favourite heroine.
The relationship between Riley and her father’s head of security, Benson, is heart-warming. Riley’s mother is dead, and Benson acts as a surrogate mother. His frantic concern during their Skype chats had me giggling: even a tough man has an Achilles heel!
I didn’t give this five stars because I’m unimpressed by comparisons between Karachi and America.
‘In some ways, these over-privileged children were as bound by their culture as Farida was by hers.’
‘I didn’t miss the irony that here in my own country I was being treated little better than Farida had been in hers. There were no death threats, of course, but this business about deciding who did and didn’t deserve to be educated was frighteningly similar.’
I understand Kes was trying to make it easier to relate to the private school kids, but it made me uncomfortable. In Karachi, girls seek education despite risking certain death. Just because Harrington’s headmistress didn’t want Riley to enroll, doesn’t mean she couldn’t get educated in one of the hundreds of public schools across America. It’s a small aspect, but it was short-sighted.
Other than one tiny quibble, I loved ‘A Dangerous Year’. Kes is currently writing the second book in the Riley Collins series, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. It ends on such a cliffhanger that I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this book for a long time to come. This is one of the best debut novels I’ve read this year.