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Delcroix Academy, Book 1: The Candidates by Inara Scott

September 22, 2010

I first saw this book a few weekends ago, featured on a shelf of new Teen books. It caught my eye because of its flashy cover. My high school English teacher told me that red was the color that catches the eye the most and that publishers use this knowledge when designing book covers. Well, I guess he was right. The Eternal Ones has a red cover and I bought that. Now I’m also the proud owner of Delcroix Academy. Those publishers must have been polling an audience of one: me.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the blurb:

Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that’s not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia’s mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just…happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt.  So Dancia does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, belieiving this way she can supress her powers and keep them hidden.
But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dancia’s days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for diplomats’ kids and child geniuses–not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies.  So why are they treating Dancia like she’s special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.
And then there’s her mysterious new friend Jack, who can’t stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what.  But Dancia isn’t convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her “gift” than they’re letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it…But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.

The only reason I did not pick up this book immediately was because it was in hardcover and I have to keep myself to a limit of two hardcovers per week. Otherwise they add up to an empty pocket book. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. I’ve been known to break it. I’m weak when it comes to books. But I was able to resist that first weekend because I have a blog now. It’s like becoming a parent. (Not really.) I have responsibilities now. Reading responsibilities. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to read one more book that first week–and how right was I? I’m still making up for the post blog-inauguration (bloguration?) shopping spree I went on. Well, any excuse will do when talking about book splurges.

Okay, okay, time to get down to the review:

Ahem. Delcroix Academy takes place in the small town of Danville, somewhere not too far from Seattle, Washington. Right away, there’s a bonus point for this book. It doesn’t take place in New York City! I love NYC. I’ve been there multiple times. But it would be nice if more people wrote about other places in the world, let alone the United States. Unfortunately, most of the action of Delcroix takes place inside the academy’s walls. We don’t learn much about Danville–or Seattle, for that matter. This novel is both a mystery and a paranormal. The narrator is Dancia Lewis, a fifteen year old girl who is average in all things–except her telekinetic ability. Since Dancia was fairly young, she has tried to hide by making herself as unnoticeable as possible. All her careful scheming turns out to have failed because someone has noticed her–the recruiter for the prestigious Delcroix Academy. Delcroix is that school where all the rich, smart people go. You have to be asked to attend and once you get in, its like being in a clique. You’re set for life. You’ve got connections.

So Dancia, having worked so hard at being average, is immediately suspicious. Why would such an elite academy be recruiting someone like her? Dancia’s never let on that she’s telekinetic. In fact, she’s tried to suppress the ability and ignore it when she can’t. But Delcroix–and the hot guy who comes along to encourage Dancia to say yes to the recruiter–proves too tempting. Before Dancia knows it, she’s moving into the dorm and making friends. For the first time in her life, she doesn’t push people away.

The problem is that Dancia has been playing the role of the average teenage girl for so long that she’s sold herself on the story. She doesn’t really know what she’s doing at Delcroix. Everyone seems to have a niche except her. Which, of course, makes her worry that someone at Delcroix Academy somehow found out about the only thing that is special about her. That thing she’s tried so hard to keep secret–her telekinesis. Her suspicions are made worse by the second boy she meets–Jack. Jack is another poor, not especially talented student just like Dancia. And he seems to have a special ability of his own. Jack and Dancia become friends because they share a connection, they understand each other in a way that Dancia’s never experienced before. But all this is confused with Dancia’s feelings for the boy she met first–Cam. Then there’s the fact that Cam keeps warning Dancia away from Jack. It’s all very confusing for a fifteen year old girl.

I never really trusted Dancia as a narrator. She was naive and a little too into self-deception. I also didn’t like the way she began to avoid Jack because she didn’t want Cam to see them together. Dancia basically treats Jack like crap throughout most of the novel. Furthermore, we are repeatedly told that she and Jack “get” each other and that Jack makes her laugh and he’s really an important part of her life. But that’s all-we’re told these things and never shown them. The only interactions Scott records between the two of them are the ones that paint a shady picture of Jack’s past or as the “bad boy” in the inevitable love triangle. The same thing happens between Dancia and Cam–the development of their friendship happens off screen. All the talking and connecting they do in our presence has relevance to the plot. Which is great, but boring. I don’t really feel like I know anything about any of the characters. I mean, Jack’s the bad boy and he’s been in a gang and he’s lived on the streets. But what else? Where’s his depth? Does he like or dislike anything? What about Cam? I think he’s athletic, but I’m not 100% sure. And what about Dancia? Well, she’s as drab and boring as she’s spent so much time pretending to be. I have an idea about what she looks like, but she doesn’t have any of the quirks or special interests that make a character interesting. These are one-dimensional characters. The good news is, this is the first book in the series. The bad news is: this is the first book in the series.

As for the plot, I pretty much had it figured out from the beginning. I knew who was good and who was “bad” and what the “big secret” was. Do you like it when I use so many quotation marks? Good. I guess you could say this book kind of bored me. Even Dancia’s internal struggle–how to deal with the responsibility of having so much power–was predictable. My hope is, however, that this is only the prologue for the series. Scott has plenty to work with here. Maybe it was her publisher’s idea to break it all down into tiny bits. I just wish they’d printed it in paperback.

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