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Set at a luxe, aspirational boarding school inspired by the author's beloved alma mater Spelman College, this debut is a captivating celebration of the friends we choose, the family we protect, and the love we owe ourselves.
It's fourteen-year-old Avielle "Avi" LeBeau's turn to do what everyone in her family has done: leave home to attend Briarcliff Prep—a Historically Black Boarding School (HBBS). And as scared as she is to say goodbye to her parents and move to Georgia, she knows her fearless big sister Belle will be there to show her the ropes.
Before long, Avi settles into life at Briarcliff. New friends (and foes), challenging classes (at times too challenging), and maybe a cute tutor-turned-something-more (if her brothers don't get in the way). Meanwhile, Belle does what she always does: she runs the campus's social scene, especially now that she's dating Logan, the pride and joy of Briarcliff's sibling school Preston Academy.
But something about Logan doesn't sit well with Avi, no matter how many times Belle reassures her Logan is a good guy. And when Avi stumbles across the truth, her relationship with Belle is put to the test. If Avi reveals what she knows, their sisterhood might never recover. But if she doesn't, she might lose Belle forever.
Debut author Brianna Peppins deftly balances a celebration of sisterhood, self-discovery, and Black joy with an empathetic exploration of teen dating violence in this novel that is, at its heart, a love letter to Black girls.
About the Author
Brianna Peppins (www.BriannaPeppins.com) was raised in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and spent most of her childhood consuming books. She graduated from Spelman College with a B.A. in Psychology and shortly after began writing her debut novel, Briarcliff Prep.
* Brimming with a wealth of pop culture references—Belle dreams of modeling her career after “Beyoncé’s dance captain”—and told via a limited omniscient viewpoint that renders Avi’s life and the people around her in expertly nuanced detail, this powerful debut compassionately tackles themes of class privilege and domestic violence. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jas Perry, KT Literary. (Nov.) —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
* Peppins' debut explores a variety of themes, illustrating sisterhood, positive and non-positive models of parenting and relationships, and how those can be affected by violence, abuse, and secrets. The third-person narrative effectively takes on gender and race in a realistic setting with characters who all feel real and true. Peppins treats her characters and topic carefully, gracefully taking on the themes and using the boarding school's classes to emphasize the importance of Black writers and icons in helping young people bolster their own understanding of the strength of their identity and community. A fresh and thoughtful take on the boarding school setting. — Kristina Pino —Booklist (starred review)
Debut author Peppins’ thoughtful, realistic writing shows the alienation that victims of domestic violence endure along with the impact it can have on those who love them but have a limited ability to bring about real change. Through limited omniscient narration, readers enjoy a detailed account of Avi’s life at an HBBS.... Many people and subjects significant to Black culture are woven into the story and will spark recognition for many readers. A necessary story, full of emotion and with a hopeful ending. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18) —Kirkus
Peppins draws from personal experience to create this authentic high school experience in a place where most of the characters are Black or of color.... Peppins tackles the issue of teen domestic abuse thoughtfully, in a way that will feel authentic to readers. VERDICT This debut novel is very character driven and will make a great addition for collections that need realistic fiction with strong worldbuilding and character development.–Helen Prince —School Library Journal