Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Fraternity by Andy Mientus, which turned out to be another great choice for Bi Visibility Week. It will be available on Tuesday wherever you buy your books!
A queer, dark academia YA about a mysterious boarding school, a brotherhood that must stay in the shadows, and an ancient evil that could tear it all apart.
In the fall of 1991, Zooey Orson transfers to the Blackfriars School for Boys hoping for a fresh start following a scandal at his last school. However, he quickly learns that he isn’t the only student keeping a secret. Before he knows it, he’s fallen in with a group of boys who all share the same secret, one which they can only express openly within the safety of the clandestine gatherings of the Vicious Circle––the covert club for gay students going back decades. But when the boys unwittingly happen upon the headmaster’s copy of an arcane occult text, they unleash an eldritch secret so terrible, it threatens to consume them all.
A queer paranormal story set during the still-raging AIDS crisis, Fraternity examines a time not so long ago when a secret brotherhood lurked in the shadows. What would Zooey and his friends do to protect their found family?
***Thank you to Amulet Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley! My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I loved this book so much and tore through it in a couple of days. It started out a bit rough, though, with the first chapter being full of parenthetical notations (like this) that made the writing feel very choppy. Luckily, only one of the three POVs used this style, and its use waned significantly after the first few chapters. I did enjoy the retrospective nature of the writing, and the way it allowed the characters to not only tell the story but reflect on it. I quickly fell in love with the three main characters. Zooey was a new transfer student to the elite boarding school, and he was running away from some dark stuff in his past while also trying to avoid thinking about his sexual orientation. Daniel, the only Black boy at the school, was a jock hiding his true self from all of his racist and homophobic friends. Finally, there was Leo, a descendant of the school’s founders who was hiding the fact he grew up poor while also being the only out queer person at the school. Each boy had their own unique struggles, and the first third of the book devoted most of its time to setting up the characters, the conflicts with their peers, and their journey to becoming a found family. The author didn’t pull any punches when it comes to depicting what it was like being a queer student in the 90’s. If you are squeamish about slurs or physical bullying, this probably isn’t the book for you. Once the backdrop was set, the paranormal aspects of the story came crashing in with dramatic effect. I don’t want to spoil any of the specifics. Just know there was plenty of death, secret societies, demon worship, and general mayhem. The lives of all the characters become uprooted in major ways that provided a heartbreaking look at the AIDS epidemic and the trauma associated with the deplorable practice of conversion therapy. All in all, this was a riveting dark academia story that provided a window into life as a queer student in the 90’s and illustrated the chilling repercussions of the AIDS epidemic on the queer community. Once I started reading it, I rarely wanted to put it down. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.