How do I write a reaction to Rachel Van Dyken’s “Elite”? I guess on one hand, you could say this was trying to be a humorous, thrilling romantic read in the scheme of New Adult, but it rubbed me the wrong way for the utter implausibilities in the storyline. I had a hard time getting through much of it because it seemed like a poorly written version of the YA series “Private” by Kate Brian, or even a poorer version of the anime/manga series Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers). And then it transitioned to something more that I couldn’t follow for the utter over the top drama it held.
The story revolves around Trace, a young woman who moved from Wyoming to attend an elite college after winning some kind of draw/contest (don’t ask me – it was in the book, it was a weird place to start from). As the new girl (or “Farm Girl” as she’s called), she’s subjected to so many hazing rituals on the part of the Elite, who pretty much rule every aspect of the school including holding key cards which control how much the heroine has to eat and live off of in the facilities of the school. She gets drawn between the affections of the guys who are supposedly the “king bees” of this institution and are among the privileged few. I had a really hard time believing these students had so much control over the teachers and access to things around this institution. It drove me a little stir crazy as I read through it because I couldn’t suspend disbelief at the establishment being what it was.
The heroine gets subjected to not only being drugged and made to think she slept with one of the Elect (and gets called names and petty labels for the insinuation), but also becomes the butt of several sexually harassing gestures and creepy come-ons that made me cringe as I read through the work. And the heroine has some kind of weird association with cows that was repeated over and over in a way that wasn’t endearing at all.
And the larger conflict? I had to shake my head at the convoluted associations it made with mob mentalities and murder and just…I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
But apart from that, this is pretty much your typical New Adult novel for cliches – uber jerk love interest, heroine who pines for hero despite him being a jerk, female-female hating, slut-shaming, bitch-slamming…wash, rinse, repeat. Argh. And this was one of those books I really hoped would be different.
I can’t say I have a handle on Rachel Van Dyken’s style of writing yet (Her prose in itself is compulsively readable – I finished this fairly quickly for time, but it contained a lot of grammatical errors for tenses, comma use, among other measures – more than it should’ve had even for a galley), but it’s probably better I stop with this respective series because I had too many issues with it. It was not fun in the least.
Overall score: 0.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Forever.