*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Chandler Legacies
Author: Abdi Nazemian
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Beth Kramer is a “townie” who returns to her sophomore year after having endured a year of judgment from her roommate, Sarah. But Sarah Brunson knows there’s more to that story. Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer is the privileged daughter of NYC elites, who is reeling from the realization that her family name shielded her from the same fate as Sarah. Ramin Golafshar arrives at Chandler as a transfer student to escape the dangers of being gay in Iran, only to suffer brutal hazing under the guise of tradition in the boys’ dorms. And Freddy Bello is the senior who’s no longer sure of his future but has fallen hard for Spence and knows he has to stand up to his friends after what happened to Ramin. At Chandler, the elite boarding school, these five teens are brought together in the Circle, a coveted writing group where life-changing friendships are born—and secrets are revealed. Their professor tells them to write their truths. But is the truth enough to change the long-standing culture of abuse at Chandler? And can their friendship survive the fallout?
The Chandler Legacies explores life at boarding school, especially one full of privileged children and curriculum that caters to a patriarchal and white-centric perspective. The Circle is an elite writing group brought together each year by the English teacher to help students discover their voices and extend empathy to the voices of others. This year, The Circle brings together a diverse group of students who’s stories and viewpoints have the ability to challenge the status quo at Chandler. At Chandler, these five intelligent, funny, and talented kids represent the minority: from their gender, to their sexual orientation, and to their cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Their truths and experiences often come at the expense of others and this is their story as they work to discover their own identities and to stand up for what they believe is right.
I love this book in concept. The characters, their stories, the diversity within The Circle, it’s all so refreshing and it brings perspectives to light that we need to see more of in literature. My particularly favourite character, Ramin Golafshar, is an Iranian student who was forced to leave his home because of his sexuality. An incredibly insightful and endearing character, he is simply looking to find a safe place where he can pursue his interests and study hard. I could have read an entire book from his perspective! I also love the story. As someone who considers myself a writer and who actively sought out literature and writing courses throughout my high school life, The Circle is my dream. This story is right up my alley.
What stands in the way of me really loving this book (I had to give it only 3 stars), is that I felt as though the plot was sold short with not enough time nor attention paid. There is SO much to unpack in this book. It tackles topics from abuse (sexual and otherwise), gender identity, self-discovery, patriarchal constrictions, education reform, racism, sexism, and so much more, and the book is far too short. The author does an incredible job of building his characters and context in the first 3/4 of the book, only for it to fall apart into a hastily wrapped up package in the end. I. WANT. MORE! Nazemian is a great writer, and it felt as though he was given a deadline to adhere to for completing the book, and that deadline didn’t do the story and justice at all. In fact, it left the story feeling incomplete and hollow in the end, in what could have been an incredibly robust story. There are so many themes within these pages that MANY readers will relate to and connect with as they read, but the hasty ending does the story no favours and takes away from the intensely important conversations that the book brings to light.
Still, it’s worth a read and is a stand out in the YA world in terms of topics addressed and a diverse cast of characters. Nazemian’s writing is enticing and he weaves a beautiful story for these characters, tackling difficult topics along the way.