Book review: The Expectations by Alexander Tilney

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Expectations

Author: Alexander Tilney

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 9780316450379

Synopsis from Goodreads:
St. James is an exclusive New England boarding school known for grooming generations of leaders. Ben Weeks is a true insider — his ancestors helped found St. James, his older brother was a legend who taught him all the slang, and he’s just won a national championship in squash. But after fourteen long years of waiting, Ben arrives at school only to find that the reality of St. James doesn’t quite match up with his imaginings. At the same time, his new roommate, Ahmed Al-Khaled, the son of a fabulously wealthy Emirati sheik, can’t navigate the unspoken rules of New England blue bloods. Even as Ben and Ahmed struggle to prove themselves in the place they have revered for so long, each of them must face losing it forever.


I found this story to be difficult to connect to and in truth, it fell a little flat for me. It was a book that was only ok. It’s the story of a New England boarding school, run by tradition, wealth, and incredibly high standards. Ben is the latest in his family to attend this school and is set to be a squash superstar. He’s living in the shadow of his father and of his older brother who is legendary at SJS. Popularity is set to encompass Ben’s life, if only he can get in with the right crowd, even if it means rejecting those who might be his true friends. This is a story of coming-of-age in a world full of privilege and excess.

Tilney’s writing is pretty engaging and easy to follow. I was interested to know how the story would unfold and what character developments would ensure. To the novel’s credit, I was intrigued and was interested in the characters. Ben experiences growth and development as he experience his first year away from home and out from under his parent’s watch.

The story, however, had little excitement and didn’t share a perspective that was particularly challenging. I wasn’t enthralled by Ben’s experiences and the school experience itself was predictable. Ben does grow, but overall is a bit of a bore. He doesn’t try to challenge the status quo and he’s more focused on popularity than in his own interests. I didn’t find him to be a particular insightful protagonist and his primary motivations are to avoid disturbing the normal day-to-day of socializing and maintaining normalcy in his interaction with his peers. The students at SJS bully those that don’t fit in, they’re full of entitlement, and they assume that the rules don’t apply to them. I didn’t mind the story, but I can’t say that I was surprised or blown away.

Reviews of this one seem to be mixed. I hope you’ll have a better time with it than I did. Happy reading!

Published by wornpagesandink

Hi! I'm Jaaron. I'm a book-obsessed blogger, writer, reader, coffee-drinker, and dog-lover. I have a B.A.H. in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine publishing. I've been fortunate to have worked in both trade and educational publishing. If you have any recommendations for excellent reads, let me know!

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