Please note that I received this book via NetGalley, this did not affect my rating or review.
I was already not pleased about getting this book to review last week when it was already published. However, I decided to move this book up my review chain and get to it this week. I really regret reading this book. This is a series that Jenny Colgan wrote back in 2008 under the name Jane Beaton. I can see why William Morrow & Company decided to re-issue this. They probably said well fans of Jenny Colgan will eat this up. I was one of this supposed fans and have real regret at even attempting this. This book is ‘clunky’. There transitions from characters is pretty awful. The character development is a joke. And there’s a love triangle with some ‘soft cheating’ which I don’t see a lot of romance fans being down for honestly. I can say this isn’t really a romance for anyone out there thinking it will be. There’s no happily ever after (HEA) and the next book in the series seems to keep dwelling on the same messed up triangle that popped up in this one. Also, the fatphobia in this book was off the charts. I loathed so many characters while reading this book and just wished that Colgan had updated this for 2022. Looking at older reviews of this book when it was out under another name it seems like people had the same problems with it that I did. Also comparing this book to her other book I finished this week, it’s like night and day in terms of writing, skill, character development, etc.
“Welcome to the School by the Sea” follows Maggie Adair as she interviews for a position as English teacher at the Downey House which is a school for girls in Cornwall. Maggie has a long term boyfriend Stan who is unsure about her being so far away for most of the year. And Maggie is worried that she may not fit in at Downey House. The book also follows the Headmistress, Veronica Deveral, and three other students, Fliss; Simone; and Alice.
Maggie is pretty bad tempered I thought. I know I was supposed to be rooting for her, but found her entire character to be charmless. It didn’t help that she had some comments to Simone about her weight. In fact everyone did which was a reason I pretty much hated everyone but that character as I was reading. Maggie’s torn between Stan and someone else and I rolled my eyes. Honestly, I just didn’t care. The book was too stuffed with things for me to care anything about her tedious relationship.
Veronica Deveral had an interesting storyline, but of course there’s a whole plot point that does not revolve itself by the end of the book. This book included some pages from the next book in the series along with a synopsis, so I do know that at least the plot holes that were not tied off will be surfacing again in that book.
Fliss was exhausting. I still don’t know why her parents were adamant about sending her to Downey House. But she’s intentionally cruel along with another girl, Alice to their suitemate, Simone. I just didn’t want to keep reading about how angry she was being there and how nasty she was being to Maggie and Simone. I actively rooted against her and Alice as I was reading.
Simone. Sigh. There are so many cultural stereotypes for this character along with the fat shaming that even teachers do to her. I was disgusted. There’s a whole plot point about her being good at field hockey as a goalie and people being stunned she can move around so easily.
The writing was very stilted. We just follow everyone of these characters through the first year at Downey House and of course way too many things except for a handful get wrapped up way too quickly. I also called BS on how the whole thing with Simone was resolved. I just sighed a bit. This book did remind me that adults and teen girls can be very cruel.
Some of the dialogue killed me though, and most of it always swirled around Simone.
“Fewer cakes, bit more sport, you’d look better in no time, with your lovely teenage metabolism.”
“And fat from too many sweets and biscuits.. she needed lots of fresh air, exercise.”
There’s even a cruddy plot point about stealing that had me grumbling that I won’t even get into.
The flow of this book was awful. As I said above, the transitions between characters/chapters was not very good.
The setting of Downey House felt blah.
The ending left so many things unfinished. I am never one of those people that like to read a series that does not do a beginning, middle, and end to a book. Cliffhangers for series also drive me up the wall. I don’t think I will be reading the other books as part of this series. I sneak peeked some reviews and the fatphobia gets bad and there’s also an eating disorder (or two) in the next one. And the love triangle keeps trudging along and will make me hate these characters even more than I thought.