Contrary to popular belief, high school did not run according to a horizontal social hierarchy with the nerds as serfs to the popular despots. The alliances and antagonisms were more complicated than the political dealings of a Third World country. In high school, you never knew who was your enemy and who was your friend. The Year of the Gadfly, by Jennifer Miller
Iris Dupont knows all about the social hierarchy of high school. A budding journalist who channels the spirit of Edward R. Murrow, Iris transfers to the historic Mariana Academy after her best friend commits suicide. Mariana is known for it’s honor code, it’s pledge to treat everyone as equals. But a secretive underground group threatens the reputation, even the very existence of the entire school.
Iris, in her best investigative reporter role, is determined to break into the ranks of the group’s underground newspaper. There, she uncovers the source of all it’s blackmail schemes and rumors, some of which involve her favorite teacher, others which point to an albino girl (whose home Iris’ parents happen to be renting) who disappeared from school under strange circumstances.
I compared this novel to Harriet the Spy for grown -ups, and Iris is quite Harriet-like with her single minded determination, her quest for the truth, and her belief in her ability to affect change with the written word.
She is also Harriet-like in her otherness. Iris is different, and so are most of the other students featured in The Year of the Gadfly. Astoundingly different, actually, for author Jennifer Miller has peopled her novel with a cast of characters that are almost outrageous in their uniqueness.
But then again, almost every teenager feels their differences are exaggerated to the point of ludicrousy. It can be a painful time, one when mistakes are made from which it’s impossible to recover.
Does Iris make those kinds of mistakes in her quest for truth and justice?
You’ll have to read The Year of the Gadfly to find out.
In the tradition of some of the most popular “school” novels – like Prep and The Secret History – Miller explores the seamy underside of adolescence, and reminds us how this time in our lives can affect our futures in unbelievable and powerful ways.
Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this interesting novel.