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The Ivies

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Enroll in this boarding school thriller about a group of prep school elites who would kill to get into the college of their dreams...literally.

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I'm one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions...among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it's deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn't an extracurricular.

312 pages, Hardcover

First published May 25, 2021

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Alexa Donne

5 books3,203 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,020 reviews
Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
929 reviews2,995 followers
July 29, 2022
i was clear, single-minded and focused while i was reading this book , I paid attention to every detail and each word that's why i disliked it a bit.

Clearly this is a ya mystery so drama comes with it and i like drama when it's done correct.

I felt there were moments when it's overdone like some tricks they did to pull there opponents down. But then again there weren't genius of prodigy students it's the least what they could think of so I was fine with it.

I feel sorry for Avery because she is stupid and was clearly stitched up by everyone. Olivia played smart IMO but her character saw zero development throughout the book. She was a "poor girl" on scholarship and by the end she remained one. None of the other characters were appealing.

- none of the twists were appealing and intersting I saw them from a mile away.

So like overall this was a decent read because

~ it was short
~ the writing is pacy and author have a flair with words (which I don't)


pre review


2.75 stars / review to come


tbr review:-

I see it.

I like it.

I want it.

when will i get it?*cries*
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,536 reviews9,783 followers
January 2, 2023
Avery, Emma, Olivia, Margot and Sierra, a clique of teenage girls collectively known as The Ivies, are low-key feared by their peers at prestigious, Claflin Academy.

This tight group of five all have the same goal: acceptance into an ivy league school.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of college admissions, the girls have agreed to apply ED to different Ivies.

Their reasoning is, if they all apply to separate schools they won't be directly competing against one another and therefore, will up their chances of acceptance.

Avery Montfort, the Regina George of the group, has claimed Harvard as hers.

On Early Decision day, it is revealed that Emma had secretly applied to Harvard and gotten accepted. While normally this would be cause for celebration, Avery did not get in and thus, blames Emma.

Enraged, Avery confronts Emma at a party and the two girls get into a fight. Ultimately, storming off to separate corners.

Olivia, our main character, watches the drama unfold from the sidelines. She secretly applied to Harvard as well, and got in, but there is no way she is telling Avery that!

The following morning, Emma is found dead. Olivia is shocked. Could Avery have possibly been angry enough to kill their friend over a college admission?

In the high-stakes world of cut-throat academics, it's definitely possible. Olivia begins to doubt her place within the Ivies. It seems the other girls have been doing a lot of things behind her back.

When it becomes clear the police may flub it up, Olivia decides to team up with her cute co-editor of the school paper, Ethan, and investigate Emma's death herself.

With a boarding school setting, loads of rich people drama and solid amateur sleuthing, The Ivies pairs some of my favorite tropes together into a red herring-filled, satirical romp through upper-class teenage lives.

It's pure mean girl chaos at its best!

While it did start out a little slow for me, once Emma's body is found, everything heats up quite nicely.

From there, the pace is steady and twisty until the over-the-top conclusion! I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves rich teen drama.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with this one and appreciate the opportunity!
Profile Image for Era ➴.
215 reviews521 followers
September 22, 2022
Trigger Warnings: death, alcohol, bullying and blackmail, toxic relationships, some mentions of disordered eating.

(*note: the disordered eating was neither explicit or acknowledged, but I know people recovering from/struggling with EDs can be triggered by a lot of seemingly minor or random things (ie. digital numbers might remind them of the numbers on a scale) so I put that there just in case.*)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me an ARC!

Why the hell am I so obsessed with elite-private-school murder mysteries?

guys one of my friends is going to a prestigious residential private school next year and now I’m lowkey scared

When I was deciding which book I wanted to download for my road trip, I kind of...didn’t feel like reading The Ivies. I spent about ten minutes debating whether or not I wanted to download this ARC. But then I did anyway and -

I spent the whole six hours reading.

And then I finished the book.

“I have to watch my back. Play the part.
I’ll have to test my acting chops tonight, pretend to play the part. Pretend I might not be ringing in the New Year with a killer.”

The premise of this book sounded pretty standard for a bitchy murder mystery - elite private school, scholarship-student main character, a popular clique of the most elite and the most gorgeous students - but the beginning still swept me away.

The Ivies are the five-member friend group of popular girls all assigned to get into individual Ivy League schools. They tear other students down so that they have all the top spots to secure their entries to top-tier universities. They’re ruthless, beautiful and cruel.

“I guess I’m a bitch, too. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being an Ivy.”

Their leader, Avery Montfort, has claimed her spot at Harvard. Unbeknownst to her, the main character Olivia Winters has also applied to Harvard...even though she’s supposed to be applying to Penn.

On the day application decisions are sent out, Olivia is accepted to Harvard. And Avery is rejected.

Emma, their friend and another member of the Ivies, has also secretly gotten into Harvard. Avery finds out.

And the next morning, Emma is found dead.

“I stare agog at my friend and her Machiavellian musings. Is this really only about competitive advantage for college?”

This plot had me suspecting so many people and seriously questioning basically everyone except Olivia and Detective Cataldo (because...you know, she’s the detective). The storyline was so engaging and I became invested in the story almost immediately.

There were so many red herrings and missed clues and hidden secrets and I was just shook at literally every twist. Because I’m gullible like that.

I did actually guess the murderer though, which was surprising.

These characters seriously had me screaming. It’s hard to develop the sides and layers of a character over just one standalone book, but somehow Alexa Donne pulled it off. There was diversity, there were contrasting sides, and there was development.

“Having a weakness is dangerous where Avery Montfort is concerned.”

Avery Montfort - the ringleader of the Ivies. She’s beautiful, skinny, and set straight for Harvard by instruction of her rich, toxic, triple-Harvard-legacy mother. Her family also owns one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. She’s the most prominent out of all the other characters, save for Olivia.

I loved Avery. She was a bitch, but her characterization had me shook. Her secrets and lies and just overall badassery made me love her so much. She’s the classic mean girl, but something about how Avery’s character was delivered just made me attached.

“In a school of elites, Avery has a way of attracting the very best to stand by her side. President of the Girls Who Code club, Claflin chapter, Sierra had figured out how to hack into the school’s administrative system before spring semester freshman year, and it remains her most useful asset as in Ivy.”

Sierra - she was a strong, steady character, and yet I wasn’t sure how I felt about her. I liked her for a bit and then I didn’t, but she wasn’t the one who changed. It was the circumstances and the plot and my own opinion, and I thought that it was interesting that she could stay the same and give me so many conflicting opinions.

“Margot is the school’s premiere actress, surely Broadway bound; she can charm (ie., deceive) teachers and students alike.”

Margot - she was the most bland out of the Ivies, but I liked that she still had her own personality and dangers to her. We didn’t really get a lot of her on the page. She was smart, scheming, and an amazing actress, and that’s really all we need to know.

“Emma’s the social Renaissance woman, in with every conceivable group. As captain of FIRST Robotics, first-chair flute in band, butterfly champion on the swim team, and tech director for the drama club, Emma’s got a finger in every pie.”

Emma - the victim of the murder. She was...interesting.

Emma appeared to be the “good-girl” character at first. Nice, unassuming, and talented, with a rebellious boyfriend. She wasn’t actually that nice, since we know that all of the Ivies were bitches, and she wasn’t that unassuming, since we know that the Ivies were conniving, but compared to everyone else she was the “good girl”.

As Sierra described her:

“That girl lives in her own universe, where she’s the smartest and nicest person, tee-hee, and how could anyone ever think otherwise? Always pushing shit too far and then acting innocent when things blow up.”

Finally, Olivia Winters - our main character, scholarship student, and the only lower-middle-class member of the Ivies...or really Claflin Academy. She’s smart and hardworking, but is considered the “extra” friend - as in, the Ivies don’t include her in half their shit. Her narrative was intense. I liked her and she was definitely a strong, relatable character.

“I’ll never stop marveling at rich kids getting upset about other people calling them rich. They’re so sensitive.”

After Emma’s death, Olivia starts investigating. Part of it is because Emma was her roommate, but it’s also because Avery and Emma got into a fight over Harvard. The last thing that Avery said to Emma was “I could kill you for this.”

“The lead weight of doubt settles in my stomach. The question Did Avery kill Emma because of Harvard? is feeling less and less ridiculous. Avery is hiding something. And Sierra and Margot may be in on it.”

Unfortunately, this investigation that Olivia launches uncovers a little bit too much. Emma, apparently, was not the perfect girl that everyone thought she was.

Of course, this prompts Olivia to start digging deeper.

The setting was so good. Claflin Academy felt like a real school, albeit similar to a lot of other private schools in the other murder mysteries I’ve read. I felt like I could imagine everything and I understood the whole hierarchy. Let’s be honest, we’ve all dreamed of being those gorgeous clique-y billionaire kids.

“That’s Claflin Academy in a nutshell; private, elite, and bleeding bullshit from every red-bricked building.”

The atmosphere was perfect. It was just the right amount of creepy, tense and bitchy. It really contributed to the mystery and the unsolved questions, and it made the different suspects just seem...more suspicious. It was that mysterious “never-trust-anyone” vibe that I’m obsessed with in these kinds of books.

“Something is wrong. I feel it in my bones, like when you enter a room and know people were just talking about you. Or like a ghost walking over your grave. My mom always says that, though it doesn’t really make sense. And yet...that feeling.”

In my opinion, there didn’t need to be romance. It was a good aspect, but it wasn’t really needed (although that might just be me being tired of having so many romances in every single book I read). Their dynamic was great, and it provided a lot to the plot, but I feel like Olivia’s and Ethan’s relationship would have given us the same through a platonic dynamic.

“Are you trying to shunt all the investigation work onto me?” Ethan teases. I like this, us being playful with each other. It’s distracting me from being terrified.
“No.” I grin at him. “I have the hardest job of all.”
“And what’s that?”
“Going to war with the Ivies.”

I loved the Ivies, though. I loved the whole bitchy aesthetic that they gave. They were cruel, ambitious bitches, and they were completely fine with it. I know I would hate them with all my soul if they existed, but reading about soulless monsters of teenage girls is such an experience.

“Tears prick at my eyes, finally. I am not a sociopathic monster. With friends like Avery, I worry sometimes.”

I’m honestly a little bit tired of the whole girl-who-doesn’t-fit-in trope. Because naturally every protagonist of a rich boarding school mystery will be the scholarship student who’s a charity case for the popular kids. She’s always left out, even though everyone else thinks she’s part of them. She doesn’t have fancy clothes and rich lawyers. She’s just average and they’re elite. Etc.

“Why does it matter who knew? Or is our plan to rat us all out? You’re not one of us, Liv, and we know it. Why do you think we left you off the group text? You can’t be trusted. Always playing the victim.”

It’s just getting tired. Give me an elite billionaire-class bitch who is actually nice. You don’t have to be “poor” (AKA average) to be nice.

“I never did think you fit in with them. You didn’t make sense.” Ethan narrows his eyes, thoughtful.”

Speaking of rich bitches, Avery. I know I already gushed talked about her earlier in the character section, but she was basically the embodiment of another tired, overused trope - the Blonde Queen Bee™. Why is every single top bitch blonde, skinny, tanned, and gorgeous, with sparkling blue eyes? I’m a bitch and I’m tan-skinned Asian, and I’m not even pretty. Seriously, I feel cheated.

“This is what Avery and I have the most in common. Self-soothing through food. She has to be in a very bad place to carb load on junk food, though. Usually her version of stress eating is swapping out her light balsamic salad dressing for creamy ranch.”

I did like the writing of this book. It wasn’t extraordinary or really that different, but I think it perfectly suited the vibe of the book and delivered pretty much everything that you need a writing style to deliver. The tone, voice and atmosphere matched everything else perfectly. There were a few typos and grammar errors, but that’s honestly kind of normal for ARCs? So it wasn’t a big deal. I could overlook them pretty easily.

“I get close enough to see, really see, the body. Because it has to be a body. It’s not moving.
It. When do you cease to be a person and start to be a body?”

I think the best thing about this book was the drama. There were so many secrets being revealed, so much tension and suspicion, and the plot twists and red herrings were just so intense. I was swept into this book from the first three chapters and from there it was just one thing after another. The pacing was fast and the plot twists were everywhere and it felt like I couldn’t keep up.

That might just be because I sat down and read this book in one sitting, but still.

“Tyler launches into a fine speech about all the things he loved about his girlfriend, and I can’t help but feel jaded. The Emma he describes is perfect, but I now know my friend was far from it. If I’d come to know all of Emma’s secrets before she died, would I still have liked her? Will she now forever be crystallized as a saint because she died young and tragically?”

Overall, this was definitely the best ARC I’ve read yet (LMAO this is my third one, that’s not a solid judgement). This was intense, harsh, and dramatic, and yet none of it was even that unrealistic. I loved the drama and the secrets and the mystery, and how twisted some of the characters were, and I loved the ending. It seriously shook me. The Ivies carries messages about being popular, being ambitious, and being cruel, and I was invested.
Profile Image for Peyton Reads.
174 reviews1,936 followers
March 14, 2021
This book was a ton of fun! I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading it as I did with Alexa Donne's other two novels. I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately so I got my hands on this book at the perfect time! There was a bunch of twists and turns throughout this book that kept me guessing all the way through. It is a murder mystery at a boarding school with a group of mean girls involved. These girls will do anything to get into an Ivy League school and their vibes reminded me a lot of the girls from Pretty Little Liars. These mean girls are obviously super unlikeable at first, but what was surprising was how I grew to respect one of them by the end of the novel. I never thought that would happen to be honest and it was quite satisfying. At first, I had no idea who the murderer was, but towards the end of the book I had a solid theory that ended up being right. Alexa added a few twists that made me question my theory a few times though so it still was a satisfying conclusion. I definitely recommend giving this book a try!
1 review2 followers
June 23, 2021
I'll start this review by saying that I have seen a number of Alexa Donne's youtube videos, and am aware of her presence on authortube. I think that's worth pointing out, since her success on authortube makes it difficult to separate the art from the artist when reviewing her book. She's known for giving writing and publishing advice, so perhaps I'm holding her to a higher standard, but I found this book very underwhelming.

To be frank, I think Alexa would make a better editor or literary agent than a writer, since she obviously knows a lot about the industry side of things (you can see this from her youtube videos) but lacks the innate feel for plot and character that makes a writer. Her books are very by-the-numbers and tropey, as you would expect from someone with an understanding of industry trends but no organic vision as an artist. It's clear she's better at giving advice than taking it, and I actually would recommend some of her industry-oriented youtube videos if you're interested in publishing, despite some of the racist remarks and casual contempt for whiteness that she portrays in some of her videos. (Just ignore her invalidating white people's opinions on race based solely on the color of their skin, since, as a white person, she's ironically trying to invalidate her own opinion on the topic. Alexa's not the brightest bulb or the most self-respecting when it comes to that topic, obviously.)

In any event, let's get into the analysis of the book.

-Donne's prose is smooth and polished, for the most part. On a sentence level, she's not a bad prose writer
-The premise had promise and if well-executed, could have been really interesting
-it's a short, undemanding read
-there may be some young person out there who needs to hear that the insane pressure to get into a good college is not the end-all be-all of your teenage existence, and if this book provides that message to someone, that's great

-The Ivies is sold as a thriller, despite the author coming from a romance background, but I found the pacing sluggish
-the mystery elements were predictable and the revelation of the killer fell flat. The killer's motivation is the first generic thing you would think of
-the book leans into half-baked social commentary about poverty and classism, since the narrator is the token poor girl surrounded by wealthier students at an elite boarding school where her social group is fixated on the prospect of getting into an Ivy League college. This felt more like a byproduct of the author feeling obligated to acknowledge that the characters are in a privileged position rather than any real satire or commentary on class or society. If you want to write a trashy contemporary about rich kids being bad, just do it, Alexa, you don't have to pretend there's a legitimate hot take embedded in your trashy YA book. Pick a lane.
-The Ivies is tagged as LGBT+, but Donne is clearly afraid of being accused of appropriation, as the LGBT+ aspect of the book is mostly just a reference to things that happen off-page, and not something that's really focused on. Why bother?
-None of the characters really appealed to me that much. I didn't hate them, but like a lot of things in this book, they came across as forgettable

Final thoughts: You know when you hear about books that "don't pull any punches"? Yeah, The Ivies is not one of them. The author never fully commits to anything. Anything that might have been interesting is left half-baked and Donne lacks either the skill or the insight to push deeper. But she doesn't commit to the opposite, either. This could have just been a trashy YA drama that wasn't striving to be anything more. And that would have been fine. But Donne doesn't pull that off either. Perhaps because of her success as an authortuber and her online reputation, the author seems afraid to take risks or commit to anything outside of safe, industry-approved tropes and standards.

It's almost like having a built-in audience from youtube allows you a modest degree of success without ever having to realize that you're not as good as you think you are. Imagine that.
Profile Image for Jessica.
8 reviews
April 22, 2020
I was lucky enough to read this recently, and let's just say... the world isn't ready. Smart and darkly addicting, I can't recommend it enough. The characters will get under your skin, and the writing is perfectly paced and deliciously evil. Just go buy it!
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,155 reviews1,514 followers
May 6, 2021
The Ivies by Alexa Donne is a young adult thriller set in an elite boarding school. The students in this school are more than ambitious and when it comes to getting into the best colleges they pull out all the tricks to do better than their peers but the questions is what is too far?

The Ivy League are the most sought after colleges out there and are often referred by students as The Ivies however there is also The Ivies at Claflin Academy, five girls dead set on getting into the best schools. The group consists of Avery, their leader, Sierra, Margot, Emma and finally,Olivia, our main character. These girls have spent their years at the academy sabotaging other students to keep themselves at the head of the class and have now applied.

Avery had dictated to the girls that they each should pick a different Ivy college so they all should be accepted since only a few are chosen from the academy each year to a single college. Avery had claimed Harvard as her own however so Olivia and Emma applied in secret. Avery is turned down and Olivia and Emma accepted, Olivia stays quiet about her own acceptance but Emma admits hers and there is a huge fight between Avery and Emma. The next day Emma is found murdered, would Avery have gone that far or is another killer on the loose??

For some reason even in adulthood I am still always drawn to boarding school or summer camp thrillers. Perhaps it’s because those are things the rich enjoy that I never myself did so setting a killer among those is a twisted appeal to me. But even with that draw they don’t always work out as enjoyable but thankfully The Ivies did. This one had just the right amount of intrigue, backstabbing bitches, and a twist I didn’t see coming. There were times my jaw would drop at how vicious and conniving these girls were. With my suspect all picked out I prepared myself for disappointment when the author headed that way but boy was I glad she tied it all into a pretzel and surprised even me, what fun!

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Carl Audric Guia.
49 reviews34 followers
August 4, 2021
Infested by the reading slump, I picked up The Ivies. Its thriller vibes on every page didn't disappoint!

College admissions are daunting, and it's almost comforting to read about a group of students as anxious as me. But man, this super competitive class put the competition to the next level. Sabotage and murder? Really?

Anyway, I guess that was the fun part of the book. It succeeded in keeping suspense until the very last chapter, and it's somehow satisfying to watch twisted facts unravel into heinous truths.

One thing I didn't like though was the characterization. The main character just played Enola Holmes and did not even grow in the process. There were minor inconsistencies in the others' attitudes. (But I think this makes the cast so unnervingly manipulative. You're sure to get swayed by their fake personas.)

And the rest of the people didn't feel real because of their ultra-wealthy backgrounds. I can't wrap my head around the fact that kids like them actually exist. On a positive note (or not), they provided a stark contrast to the modest background of the MC, displaying the uneven playing ground of the education system.

Overall, if you're looking for a rollercoaster feels and probably have some background in US college admissions, then this thriller is right for you. Just don't expect a lot of substance because I honestly feel this embodied the stereotypical high school life: all fun and games but darker.
Profile Image for tappkalina.
650 reviews400 followers
February 6, 2022
The review --> One Word: Boring.


We have a cover!
My dumb ass always imagined it to be total black with white school logo at the middle so I'm confused now, but I'll get used to it lol.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,556 reviews3,760 followers
March 23, 2021
I am between 3.5 to 4 stars, so per my review policy, I will bump up to 4 stars. I will also disclose that I consider the author to be an online friend, so take that as you will. That being said... this was super fun! It took me a little bit to get into the flow, but once I did, I really enjoyed the "chatty" quality of the writing and I ended up getting swept up in the drama & intrigue of an elite boarding school filled with entitled students who will do WHATEVER it takes to get into their dream school. I think part of the fun of this plot is that it is extreme but... not that extreme. All in all, I think this is a really enjoyable version of a YA thriller with a solid ending and a nice tone of age-appropriate cynicism/snark
Profile Image for Monte Price.
623 reviews1,695 followers
July 3, 2021
The motive of this story is so fucking foolish. Sure it lives in the land of the plausible, but so much of this book is just... not it, that any of it being plausible just doesn't matter.

For the vast majority of the book Olivia just feels like the wrong narrator. Even once the narrative bothers to come up with an explanation as to why the other Ivies welcomed her into the fold it still just didn't make any sense. The only one that actually made sense was pretty tenuous, as was Avery's constant reassurance that Olivia did belong with them. I'm sorry to say that none of it worked for me. I get that it's a pretty stock trope to have the regular degular person find themselves enveloped in the lives of the rich and scheming, and sure Olivia tried and failed to scheme, but she just very clearly didn't belong.

As for her investigation skills... I guess they existed. Anyone reading a YA thriller for the YA character to do the investigation could never be me. It's always just pretty whatever. Only here the pretty whatever investigation wasted no time in singling out like twenty people that could have been the killer. What some might describe as a series of plot twists read more to me like this constant need to outsmart the reader. At least two of the red herrings could have been removed and I would have enjoyed it more. I get that the book wanted me to be on the edge of my seat, but instead I was simply rolling my eyes.

The actual end of the book, after a final attempt at undercutting reader expectations was fine. For me I felt that it dragged on a little too much, but I get not wanting to end it with the arrest. I get that the narrative was going for this full circle moment with college admissions.

I think in a different medium, like television where the potential chrarisma of Olivia's actress could distract me from the idea of her not fitting in I could enjoy it. Even if I had a more well rounded construction of this world. This has convinced me that as much as I want to enjoy books set in fancy boading schools with scheming means girls, if there's a death it's probably not for me. I don't enjoy the way that YA thrillers specifically are structured, and while there is a market for it and I know there are plenty of people drawn to all of the aspects of this that didn't work for me, it just wasn't a banger for me.
Profile Image for Lainey.
261 reviews1,571 followers
April 26, 2021
Full Disclosure: I received an ARC via the publisher. Also, Alexa and I are friends.

I don't read thrillers! But the moment I heard of THE IVIES, I knew I was going to want to read this. With the boarding school and competitive college admissions edge, it had all the buzzy words that intrigued me.

My favorite part about this book is that it really sent me back to the boarding school books I used to read growing up that really fed my love for reading. Most specifically it reminded me of the PRIVATE series by Kate Brian. There's something about an outsider's narrative into the world of the elite that makes me wish I went to a boarding school when I was younger.

I really enjoyed the characters. Olivia was a great main character who pushed the plot along with all her investigating. I felt for her a lot when she had the feeling that her friend group continually excluded her. But also Avery was the queen of my heart, so.

In terms of the mystery--I was guessing every fifty pages with a new suspect I was SO SURE was the one that killed Emma. Honestly I was guessing up until the end. I guessed some things, sure, but I was largely in the dark for most of the book and that was what kept me turning pages.

Also, low-key loved the ending.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
June 23, 2021
3.5 Stars


Well I love me a bit of dark academia!

Nothing like some entitled teens dripping with wealth and sinister motives to make you appreciate your own simple life. Whilst there are some plot aspects of this novel that could have been improved, and the characters were archetypal private school elites with a charity case bestie, I still found this trope-filled book to be a bit of a page turner. A good addition to the library.
Profile Image for MK Pagano.
Author 1 book48 followers
September 12, 2020
I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book. I devoured it. SO GOOD.

Boarding school setting? Yes please. Ruthless ambition? Yes please. Mean girls who are actually way more than that? YES PLEASE.

There were twists and turns galore that kept me guessing. I did NOT figure out whodunnit, even when I thought I had. And that final twist is just < mind blown emoji >

Pick this up!
Profile Image for ApoorvaReads.
387 reviews315 followers
October 23, 2021
at this point of time i feel like giving up on mystery novels but I can’t 😭
Profile Image for Emmy Neal.
566 reviews132 followers
May 17, 2020
This book is going to be crack to juniors and seniors--the number of times I came across a moment and said, "I mean they didn't kill anyone but yeah, I basically watched that happened" makes this book almost too real. Murder aside, this is the most realistic take on college admissions I've ever read in a fiction novel--we all know quotas are a thing. Colleges won't accept more than X students from a specific school. THE IVIES takes that premise and makes a page-turning murder mystery out of it. I'm so glad this book is due in the summer; it'll make a perfect beach read.
Profile Image for Ari.
780 reviews180 followers
June 17, 2021
A very fast paced, but predictable novel with barely any character development and a killer reveal whose reasoning was absolutely ridiculous.

It's an okay book with which to pass the time, but it's sadly forgettable.
Profile Image for Fer Bañuelos ✨.
725 reviews3,272 followers
August 12, 2021

The Ivies es el resultado de mezclar Pretty Little Liars con Mean Girls. Literalmente la receta perfecta para una historia.

Si hay algo que me gusta leer son los problemas de la gente rica y este libro hace justamente eso, ademas de mostrarnos que esta gente, a pesar de tenerlo todo, están dispuesto incluso hasta matar para tener más, y ame cada segundo de ello.

Este libro tacha muchas de las cosas que me gustan:
* Esta situado en un internado. Puntos extra porque es uno de ricos.
* Hay un grupo de chicas y una termina muerta y tenemos a la prota tratando de descubrir que paso.
* Los personajes son “unlikeable” pero tienen una convicción y cierta profundidad que te cautivan.

Desde los primeros capítulos super que este libro me iba a encantar. Las Ivies: Olivia, Sierra, Margot, Emma y Avery son un grupo de mean girls, reinas de la escuela que no tienen miedo de eliminar a alguien si este se encuentra en su camino, y leer su amistad, relación y dinámica de poder fue todo un deleite. Olivia como prota me gustó porque hasta cierto punto no puedes confiar totalmente en ella y eso te mantiene pegado a las páginas. Avery es la queen bee de mis sueños. Me encanto como es, lo maldita que puede llegar a ser, y que también tiene mucho detrás.

No es mentira, me era imposible soltar el libro. Alexa Donne sabía muy bien lo que estaba haciendo cuando terminaba los capítulos en suspenso, revelandote algo pero no todo. Me lo leí en nada y debo admitir que no adiviné el final. Tenia ciertas teorías y no resultaron ciertas, porque todo el libro estuve dudando de todos.

El final tomó una dirección que no esperaba pero wow como me gustó. Siento que el enfoque que le dio la autora a la resolución abre una crítica a justo como la gente privilegiada se sale con la suya en algunas ocasiones y en como el poder que tienen es usado para cosas no tan… morales, ademas de dar espacio para temas como el racismo.

Me encanto este libro de principio a fin, y si Alexa Donne continua escribiendo thrillers de este tipo ya tiene un lector confirmado para sus próximos trabajos.
147 reviews1 follower
March 15, 2021
2.5 Stars. A girl who goes to an elite, hyper-competitive, East-coast boarding school investigates the murder of her classmate.

If you like ABC Family and the CW, then this may be a good fit for you.

I'll start with what worked for me. The story was fast-paced and gripping, which I liked. The subject matter was unique and compelling; I, personally, haven't seen any teen thrillers written about competitive college applications (and I've read quite a few thrillers), so it was refreshing to see a new face in a familiar genre. I liked that it revolved around spilling the deep, dark secrets of the "top clique" at the high school.

As a side note, I mentioned this above, but it is still important to be aware that this book clearly draws a lot of inspiration from television teen dramas. It even explicitly references the CW a couple times. This means that the teens are very dramatic and very "adult" (often to the point that it's an unrealistic portrayal of actual teenagers... but that's more a fault of the genre, rather than the author). So if that's not your cup of tea, maybe bring your plate to a different barbecue.

And now for the reasons why this book barely breaks 2 stars for me. First, it's predictable. There wasn't a single twist or reveal that surprised me. Most of the "big reveals" were easily observable from the very beginning. Although I will concede that I may have set the bar too high in that department (since I do read thrillers so often), it was still disappointing that there wasn't a single thing that caught me off-guard or made me second-guess myself.

Second, there was basically zero character development with the main character. Some of the side characters changed over time, which I appreciated, but the main character stayed the exact same. She started out the story as the "poor girl" outsider who is desperate to shed who she was and become like the glamorous Ivies, no matter the cost; she ended the story as.... the "poor girl" outsider who is still desperate to shed who she was and become like the glamorous Ivies, no matter the cost. She spends the whole book playing into the popular girls' twisted mind games and then, in the end, instead of learning from her experiences, she just keeps trying to play the game, even after the Ivies have taken their ball and gone home for the night.

She is so desperate and always tries to believe that they're really her friends and they really will accept her, even when it is abundantly clear to everyone else that they never will. It was so dissatisfying. She never gains any real friends, she never becomes anything more than a tag-along, wanna-be afterthought, but worst of all, she never just walks away. She couldn't just let go of the petty, high school drama and become something more than a ruthless, prep school mean girl. When given the chance to reflect and choose a different path, she actively decides not to. Instead, she becomes fake and spoiled and mean. It was so disappointing because it could have been so much better.
January 24, 2022
this book had an incredible plot. when I first started reading it I was like, "this is definitely going to be a 5 star read" and then as it continued on, I started to get disappointed. I love everything about this book...except the ending /:
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,041 reviews3,440 followers
April 19, 2021
Murder mystery meets college admissions at an elite private boarding school? Yes please! In full disclosure I do consider Alexa to be an online friend so take that as you will, but I've enjoyed her books since before actually meeting her and in my opinion, this is her best one yet.

The Ivies is a twisty mystery filled with soapy drama and bad behavior, coming from someone who clearly understands the world of hyper-competitive elite college admissions today. Here we follow an outsider among the wealthy: a scholarship student who has been admitted to a small group of girls committed to gaining admission to ivy league schools, no matter what it takes....

This is one where I don't want to spoil anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. I saw some things coming, but there were plenty of gasp-worthy moments as well and Alexa doesn't skimp on juicy twists and shocking revelations. And while a lot of this is soapy fun, it also has some important things to say about problems with the system, about privilege, and about how it's racist to assume someone got into an elite school just because they aren't white. (nobody is crying for privileged white boys who think they have it hard because of movement in the direction of equality)

I also appreciated that this book didn't have an abrupt ending as some mystery/thrillers tend to do. We get get a lengthier denoument which I'm a fan of, though I imagine some readers might think it draws things out too much. It's going to be a personal preference thing. In general I think there's a lot to like here and I think it's going to be a real crowdpleaser. Check content warnings below if you need them, but note that they may be slightly spoilery! I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Content warnings include:
Profile Image for booksandzoe.
263 reviews1,671 followers
April 8, 2022
This is an amazing thriller mystery. The ending is unpredictable, but even more important than that are the elements to the ending that make it great. This book wasn't afraid to "go there" as far as intertwining this book with the real world so much so that it feels like a completely nonfictional story.

This book addresses class issues, racism, queerness, and so many other topics in a nuanced way that fits in with the story perfectly. Its an insanely realistic story, so all he real-world references just feel like world building. I typically hate when YA novels contain pop culture references, but I found myself not minding in this book. The pop culture references are super realistic to teenagehood, and mainly serve to criticize the socio-economic politics of our current world.

As a side note... this is the only book that has mentioned the coronavirus and I... didn't mind? That stuff is typically so corny, but I think it works in this book because it isn't used as a cheeky reference, but just a throwaway line about how some rich white boy at school wrote his college essay on "mutual aid" he did by giving out masks during quarantine to look good on his viral Tik Tok platform (another reference I would normally HATE but it just works in this book, and only comes up the once.)

All in all I highly recommend. There was an allusion to the main character being bisexual but it was just one line and didn't confirm anything? Im 99% sure the main character had once slept with a girl to sabotage her grade or something? But it's never confirmed if the MC is bi or not so I won't say the book has bi rep, but there is some other queer rep. It's Wilder Girls amounts though (AKA don't read this book just bc there's a little queerness in it)

Thank you to Get Underlined for sending me this book :)
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,403 reviews1,850 followers
May 27, 2021
This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a great mini series. Mostly because it felt not unlike a Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars mashup (I say this without ever having watched or read PLL, so I could be off base, but from random ads I've seen it has the thriller vibes needed). Except throw in the Gilmore Girls education focus that Rory and Paris had in their final year at Chilton.

There were ruthless students before us -- they just weren't as well organized.

All that to say, this was a hot twisty priviledged backstabby underhanded mess and boy was I enthralled. I think what worked against it, though, and why I'm not rating higher, is I felt our protagonist was just a little too inconsistent in both her feelings and her reactions. I don't know if maybe that was on purpose, particularly with how this ended, but.. it made for strange reading sometimes. But the cliquey Ivies, the school itself, it was all so messed up but so fascinating.

Equally, I think, had this been done (or when it's done? who knows!) in a television format I think we could've had some extra nuance or layers that maybe would've rounded this out a bit. The mystery itself wasn't too straight forward, despite the red herrings or supposed red herrings, but there were a few other twists I found rather easy to see coming. But, again, maybe that was on purpose so we didn't guess the other? Hard to say.

"Do you know how hard it is to be a rich, above-average white guy in college admissions?"
"Oh, wait, you're being serious? Sorry."

I also found it interesting how much this actually said about the whole college admissions mania. Not being American I've only ever really seen this portrayed in fiction and this definitely took it up a notch or twelve but I think there's a lot of reality buried into this fictional narrative, too.

I probably could've done without the two or three throwaway references to the pandemic but as this is an ARC who knows if that feedback will make it up the chain or not.

I had a fun time with this, though, and it was the perfect twisty ride to pass a gloomy afternoon.

3.5 stars

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for jesslyn.
310 reviews235 followers
July 24, 2021
RATING: 1.5 STARS, rounded up because I like certain bits of it


I can’t believe I read all that voluntarily.

Also I’m willing to bet this book was written in 2020 in the hopes that COVID would be gone by 2021 but you’re WRONG because we’re still slowly rotting at home.

I admit. The whole idea of high school students killing each other just to get to Ivy League is… jarring, at the very least. It sounds like one bad dark-comedy or a mock-up, or even a satire. I too, was once a high school senior competing for a spot in top Universities. It wasn’t as big as the Ivy League, of course, but the whole University entrance thing was brutal. I remember there was a period in senior year where everything seemed like a cutthroat competition. Yes, it was barbaric. And I was there, so I think I can get a say in what happened in here. It wasn’t enough to make us kill each other, though. Mostly we just did our best, laugh it off and beg God for a miracle.


Yeah, the Ivies. Five students who would do anything for a spot in the Ivy League colleges. They sabotaged their competitors, infiltrate club presidents’ votings, get other students expelled. They went so far as to assign each others’ colleges to attend to (what?). It’s so ridiculous to the point that it started to get comical. And then, one of the Ivies got murdered.

First of all, what the hell, I was so weirded out by whatever happened in this book that I considered putting it down. No, it wasn’t because of the murders, but rather because what these people would do just to go to Ivy League; each one so exaggerated that there’s no way these things would happen in real life (I hope not, my GOD, don’t kill other people to get to Harvard).

The suspense is good. It kept me guessing at every other page, made me point out pretty much everyone. I think that’s one of the best things I could find about this book, because it kept me on my feet. And when the murderer was finally revealed, I was impressed by how much this book made me guess. But unfortunately, this is where the good bits end.

Our characters are not likable and I am aware they’re supposed to be unlikable. But there’s not a pinch about that unlikableness that makes them interesting. There’s not any kind of special qualities or some backstory that makes the Ivies, or every other character in this book, interesting to read about. The only thing that kept me going was the plot. I couldn’t give a single fuck about these characters. The only character I find a little appealing was Margot and even then, she’s the Ivy that we see the least, to my disappointment.

Now, I’m going to spoiler-y from here on. I think it’s very essential to mention some key points of this book to explain why I rated it so lowly. So if you don’t want to see that, stop reading.


Okay, so apparently Tyler is the killer. I admit I was surprised, and I think it was a good twist as any. My main problem with this is the fact that Tyler’s motive for murder is as ridiculous as the systems these Ivies set up for themselves.

Are you fucking kidding me???

Killing someone for college essays???

Look, I’m all down for unhinged killers. But PLEASE, this entire concept of students killing each other just to get to Harvard is already eye-rolling as it is. He doesn’t have a good motive. His motive is ridiculous and stupid. Even though the reveal got me surprised, I was even more surprised with the fact that of all possible reasons for doing a murder, the author chose this one. He’s unhinged, end of story. There’s nothing in that motive that would make it interesting or to make us feel for him. NOTHING.

Secondly, I can’t believe I’m going to get political on this so I’m trying to not get into this as much because I don’t think I have the words good enough to describe the situation. I know the author means well: she’s trying to tell us that there’s racism in the college admissions system. Tyler killed Emma because he needed an essay for college applications, because apparently, according to him, being a white guy applying to top colleges is hard because they would prefer to pick people of color over him.

Look, you can insert racism or whatever into your book, I don’t care. I also know that racism also exists in the college admissions system, no denying that. I don’t exactly have a problem with that but what irked me the most is the fact that this is used as a plot twist; a motive for murder. It’s just a view that’s plain wrong and he used that as a reason for doing a murder. It also makes the murder look cheap because apparently, the killer is a bland white racist guy, who killed his girlfriend for COLLEGE ESSAYS. I’m not sure if I should be irked about this but I am, because I think the racism subplot should be inserted somewhere else instead of the big reveal, simply, because it makes the twist look cheap and fake.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Angela Staudt.
374 reviews107 followers
May 10, 2021
I really enjoyed The Ivies, it was full of twists and turns and some really unlikable characters that by the end I ended up actually liking. The main characters were like a mix of Mean Girls and Pretty Little Liars, they would and will do anything to get accepted into an Ivy college. Even horrible things and ruining other people's chances at getting in, they are ruthless and will get into their top choice.

One of the main Ivies ends up dead, it seems as though someone murdered her just hours after she got accepted into her dream college. Was it one of her friends getting revenge for taking their spot, or was it someone random? All we know is that it was definitely someone at the school.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns and learning about what horrible stuff the Ivies had done to their fellow classmates. The only two issues I had with the book were very minor, but I felt as though this was a super long book that could have been shorter. The middle did drag a little bit, and if it was shorter the entire thing could have been a fast paced thriller. The other part which is totally just a me thing was the romance, I really did want certain people to end up together, but it was such a back burner romance that just fizzled out. We don't get closure and it just is what it is.

I honestly didn't expect the killer until the very end and had my theories as to who did it. I was pleasesntly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this dark academia thriller!
Profile Image for Laurie Flynn.
Author 6 books1,076 followers
September 14, 2020
The razor-sharp, whip-smart boarding school thriller of my dark and twisted soul! I loved it not just for the propulsive plot, but the examination of female friendships and societal pressures on teen girls. A must-read!
Profile Image for iamnihitha.
121 reviews24 followers
October 3, 2021
Despite that it is a mystery, the premise of this book hit a tiny bit close to home. College admissions was just about a year ago from me, and being in the competitive preppy nerd social group I was in, the admissions process was incredibly tough and was definitely one of the most hardest times of my life. Admissions are absolutely brutal with the test taking, the essay writing, the way colleges reduce you down to a single story and number, and worst of all, the rejections. On top of that, the high school environment and competition was also pretty toxic, and it was so easy to start making up excuses for why some person got into a certain college, like "that dude only got in cause he is biracial," and other crap like that. It's a coping mechanism that we eventually got over thankfully because high school is just high school and college admissions aren't everything, and after a while, we were all pretty happy with where we ended up and that's what matters the most I guess..

However, this book takes the brutality of college admissions to a whole other level where in an elite private school a group of 5 girls would do pretty shitty stuff to ensure their spot at an Ivy League. And 4 out of the 5 took things WAY to far. And then one of the girls ended up dead.

The setting and the premise are honestly pretty awesome, and I was really excited to read this book because I just love elite boarding school books. However, this book was sadly just mediocre at best.

The characters somewhat complex, but none of them were phenomenal. Sometimes I felt like the book would drag, but it would gain some momentum afterwards. The mystery and suspense were decent and interesting enough...there were some things that were super predictable, but there were also a lot of red herrings that kept you sort of hooked, but it just wasn't very suspenseful. And honestly, the mystery itself was just okay. Nothing super special but compelling enough. And the reveal of the murderer during the climax was really dull for me.

The only thing I particularly like is what happened after they caught the murderer though. It was very realistic and practical, because unlike the rest of the characters, the main character isn't wealthy, so it really showed how rich people privilege can screw you over. However, the book does resolve with a positive ending for the main character and ended on a nice, reflective and interesting note.

Overall, this was an okay, but it was by no means super exciting or memorable, so if you're looking for a easy, basic mystery to read, I'd totally recommend you check this out because this book definitely got me out of my reading slump.
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