DNF: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

I was debating whether I should make this post or not as there are different ways to handle DNF books and there's no real agreed upon standard on how to deal with them in the book blogging world. My initial instincts were that it would be wrong to talk about I didn't even finish, but this book elicited so many strong emotions from me that I feel I have to share.

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Author: Joanna Wiebe
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
To Be Published: Jan 14 2014
Publisher: BenBella Books
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Find: Goodreads
So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

Stopped: Page 128 out of 458 (27%)

Why I Didn't Like It:
As Emma on Spun with Words said, the characters are half the battle. You don't have to necessarily like a character to enjoy reading a book. But if you don't enjoy reading about the main characters, then it will be a chore to get through the book. Getting through Anne Merchant was more like a chore and a half. Not only did I not enjoy reading about Anne and the other characters, I actually hated them to the point where they elicited rather strong feelings of anger and frustration at times. Our rather, I hated Wiebe's characterizations. Instead of seeing them as actual people, I saw Wiebe's characters more as shallow caricatures full of the worst cliches and stereotypes. Sometimes, it worked. Villicus, the headmaster of Cania Christy is sufficiently creepy and disgusting enough to play the villain with his arched eyebrows, hairy mole, and crooked brown teeth. Most of the time, the cliches and stereotypes can only go so far in creating believable, complex characters.

I also felt extremely uncomfortable with how the author painted a group of girls in the story who practically embody the oversexualized, "catty" mean girl stereotype. Maybe it's because my high school days are long gone, but I found that the typical high school tropes just don't do it for me anymore. Sure, mean girls and bullies undoubtedly exist in a real high school setting, but Anne's hatred of Harper and her clique bordered on irrational. The thing that probably turned me the most off from the books were all the sexist insults Anne used to talk about Harper and her friends including, "over-the-top sleazy" (60), "coke-snorting vixen" (115), "little hussy" (121), and my personal favorite - heavy sarcasm here - "skanky cows" (117). Also note that these were in the first 27% of the book. I dread to know what other insults Anne might have come up with in the rest of the book. I really don't know how I'm supposed to root for Anne when she evidently had a personality as bad as, if not worse than, the other girls she wanted us so badly to hate.

Why Others Might Still Like It:
Plot-wise, the story was definitely interesting enough to keep me reading much further than I probably should have. At first glance, Cania Christy just seems like a posh private school that would look good on an Ivy League college application, but it is very much a world of its own with dark secrets surrounding a cut-throat competition to be the best of the best in literally all aspects of life. I do wish I read more to actually learn all the secrets of the school, but unfortunately, the pros outweighed the cons for me. This might not be the case for others.


  1. Oh no, I have this, the premise sound super interesting so I requested though. Will still give it a try :(

  2. The problems I had with the book are very much my own and I don't think that many other people will have the same issues with it as me. The premise is indeed very interesting and I've seen a lot of people give it a high rating. It just wasn't for me.

  3. Nothing frustrates me more than the Super Duper Mean Girl stereotype. I mean, really? "Coke-snorting vixen"? That's so juvenile to me. The premise of the story sounds interesting, but eh. Characters can really make or break a book for me, and one that's so snotty like that will just make me roll my eyes, and I'll end up DNFing it too.