When their mother dies of cancer, impoverished teenage twins Rose and Bel Enright are left orphaned. They are taken in by their wealthy but aloof grandmother who, unused to caring for teenagers, sends them off to Odell, the prestigious college which her late son attended.
She was the Quiet One, by Michele Campbell, is the riveting, suspenseful tale of twins who are thrown into a world for which they are not prepared. Rose is the quiet and studious one, while Bel is the more outgoing rebellious one. They are domiciled in the Moreland wing which has a past history of bad behaviour amongst the students. To quell this downward spiral, young couple Heath and Sarah Donovan are employed as house leaders. They settle in with their young family and begin the school term.
The school is awash with privilege with many of the students coming from families already connected with the college. There is a history of bullying and hazardous pranks which get out of control. Handsome Heath Donovan is an immediate hit with the older ‘bad’ girls who also take Bel into their clique. However, to fit in she must pay the price – and that price is estrangement from her goodie-goodie sister. As the animosity between the twins intensifies, a new danger is brought into play.
Michele Campbell, also wrote It’s Always the Husband and as in her previous book, she only allows fragments of information onto the page, creating a suspenseful atmosphere as situations disintegrate until there is a murder. Heath and Sarah his wife are pivotal in all of the events, with a carefully buried past needing to be kept quiet at all costs. In fact, as the sisters become enemies instead of friends, the situation escalates until potential danger brings the threat of death as the only possible outcome.
Often the college/frat type genre can be formulaic, but Michele Campbell manages to lift this above spiteful and malicious teenage behaviour into something entirely more sinister. Reputations are at risk and the darker side of human nature is exposed.
As an Australian reader, the whole prestigious boarding school notion is quite alien to me, in fact, it seems to me to be a possible hotbed of teenage angst and sexual exploitation along with illicit drug taking. But in all fairness, it is an American book and so that culture is fairly deeply embedded throughout the book. As with all good stories, there is tension, plot and engaging characters. Heath’s wife Sarah has all of the old school characteristics of charm and integrity, while Heath, bought up without privilege has a passion to succeed and make a name for himself – but at what cost.
She was the Quiet One, by Michele Campell, is available in print and digital editions from the publisher HQ Fiction. It is is an engrossing read. I finished it quite quickly as I was wanting to find out ‘whodunnit’. Anyone who enjoys a mystery/thriller should enjoy this book.