Title: As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Trigger Warnings: Drug use, alcohol use by minors, blood, death
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
Read to: Page 134 (39%)
This book is dark. Like, really dark. I probably found it darker than it actually was because I couldn’t get over the fact that these characters are high school seniors. They’re practically kids. And yet they’re doing hard drugs, drinking a lot, fighting and backstabbing and cheating to get ahead … maybe it’s because it’s so alien to my experience of high school (to be fair, I was homeschooled), but it just seemed really, really dark.
Let’s talk about the characters – or at least, what little there is of them. The characters themselves take a back seat to the rivalry between them. There’s Maria, who’s super smart and a good girl rule-follower and whose scores in everything are just behind Delilah, who is a druggie and party girl willing to cheat (or sleep with people) to get ahead. “Disabled” isn’t really a personality trait, but it seems to make up the bulk of Lily, and there’s also Maria’s friend Brandon, who is mostly just fat and gay. All of them are flat, and a lot of it reads like traits thrown in for diversity points.
The back cover promised a supernatural element, but beyond a creepy seance at the beginning and Maria experiencing some probably-a-ghost occurrences, there really wasn’t anything supernatural up to the point where I stopped reading. There wasn’t even anything supernatural involved in unseating Delilah and the death – it was all drugs. Which was pretty disappointing to me, because the main reason I picked this book up was for the supernatural element.
And that’s a big part of why I put it down. There wasn’t much of the supernatural like I wanted, it was so dark, and I couldn’t handle all the drugs and watching these kids destroy themselves and each other over … what? A scholarship? Rivalries? It’s high school. None of it will be that big of a deal in five years. Maria and Lily are acting like the scholarship is the only way for them to even see each other again after they graduate, and I’m pretty sure there are other options, even if they can’t go to the same college.
I enjoy a lot of YA books, but I’m just too old for this one. Having graduated college and being a bona fide Adult, reading about this high school drama just made me sad that these kids lacked perspective. It would probably be better enjoyed by someone actually in high school who doesn’t have the adult perspective I do.