Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo absolutely blew my mind in the best way possible.
TRIGGER WARNING: surgery, sexual assault, substance use, vomit, consumption of feces
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Alex’s life has completely turned around in a short period of time. She went from a life of crime and drugs to being at Yale, for free, even though she didn’t even graduate high school. In order to get by, she’s had to reinvent herself as someone who fits in at Yale. But playing a role for too long gets to a person, makes it difficult to reconcile the two sides of a person, and the true self eventually comes out.
“But that was the old Alex. The Alex of Hellie and Len. Yale Alex had never worn handcuffs, never gotten into a fight, never f****d a stranger in a bathroom to make up her boyfriend’s vig. Yale Alex struggled but didn’t complain. She was a good girl trying to keep up.”
Being at Yale is Alex’s best chance at a new life. It could open doors to new opportunities, and she’s determined to take full advantage.
“Lethe was Alex’s way back to normal. She didn’t need to be exceptional. She didn’t even need to be good, just good enough.”
Alex is being mentored for Lethe, one of the secret societies at Yale. She has a talent that makes her perfect for the position, even if that talent is basically all that’s working out for her. Sort of. While trying to balance the demands of a college education that she isn’t prepared for, she’s also responsible for overseeing the other societies.
“Though Lethe had been created to monitor the activities of Yale’s secret societies, its secondary mission was to unravel the mysteries of what lay beyond the Veil.”
However, shortly into her training, things start going wrong. Alex finds herself in way over her head, but she sees staying in Yale as her only option. Along the way, she works to undercover not a couple of mysteries, and eventually all the disjointed information presented by seasons creates an incredibly cohesive picture.
It’s a fascinating look at the secret societies at Yale. These groups actually do exist, but Leigh Bardugo has brought some darkness and magic into the story. I’d honestly expect nothing less from her, and I think she crossed over from YA to NA author really well. Plus, the plot twists were delightfully unpredictable, and I couldn’t put the book down.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 16
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars