Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 / 5 stars)
Phoebe Douse has always felt like she was a bit different. As a young girl, she embraced it, especially under Grandmother Naan’s guise. But as she gets older and enters high school, she can feel herself slipping away from the life she has in Crockett. But, at seemingly the most convenient time, she is accepted to the Murray School in Scotland for a once in a lifetime opportunity. She takes the chance, but it turns out there is more to the Murray School than meets the eye: a strange chemistry and history class, students with odd abilities, and a secret society all exist right under the school’s otherwise normal exterior. Phoebe is skeptical at first, but as she begins to exhibit strange abilities, her entire world is thrown out of balance. Who can she trust? What secrets are worth sharing? And what did her Grandmother know about all this? And can she uncover the truth before one of her friends get hurt?
Phoebe Douse: Secret Society for Special Abilities and Artefacts (or S3A2) is a wonderful story reminiscent of the Harry Potter or Charlie Bone series. In fact, in a way, Phoebe Douse is everything we wish Harry Potter could have been. The cast is diverse and well thought out, with individuals from all backgrounds. It might not be the same “magical wizarding school” we grew up with, but there is something new and charming about Phoebe Douse that could bring about a new era.
Phoebe is easy to connect with as a protagonist. Her constant hesitation and skepticism is something all teenagers could relate to, especially those escaping bullying and entering a new school. She slowly develops friendships with Zoe, Ingrid, Renaud, and the other, all of whom are unique in personality and characteristics. Just like Phoebe, I slowly grew more interested in “robotic Renaud”, and saw the character open up to her, and to the readers. And I was relieved that Phoebe seemed to have more of an interest in him than “Prince Charming” Colin. In fact, as Phoebe’s interest in Renaud grows, Colin’s presence in the story fades, which masterfully shows the way a teenage girl’s mind works: as friendships grow, others disappear…and that’s okay!
The reason why I can’t rate this more than 4.5 stars, despite being unable to put it down was for a couple very small reasons. The beginning was slow, taking until about 100 pages in to really get moving. Once Phoebe arrived in Scotland of course, the story took off. There are some little logistical things I wondered about of course: how Phoebe was able to get ready to go to Scotland in 2 weeks, why no one really gave her an orientation of the school, etc. This all may have been with purpose… after all, we are talking about “special abilities” here! I also hope, as I have this worry with a lot of YA books, that the author avoids creating a love triangle in the next book. All the pieces are there for one with Renaud and Colin…and I do hope it is avoided. (Perhaps this is because I am already in love with Renaud and Phoebe’s friendship…and like Ingrid and Zoe, I’m hoping to see it become something more!)
Yet, overall, I really enjoyed this story! I want to find out more about the secrets of S3A2, the powers and abilities of Phoebe and her friends, and what dangers they will face next! In fact, I’ve already put book 2 on my TBR and intend to preorder it very soon.
So if you enjoy YA, special abilities, and want something to replace Harry Potter…I highly suggest checking out Phoebe Douse: S3A2. It’s definitely worth it!
What’s it about?
Grandmother Naan’s superstitious stories seem too peculiar and childish to Phoebe Douse. But when surprising and unfortunate circumstances in Texas lead her to accept a timely invitation to attend a remote boarding school, thousands of miles away in Scotland, Phoebe finds that everything is not what she made herself believe. Unwittingly, Phoebe is thrown onto the stage of power and danger as events unfold that reveal the extent of her abilities and Naan s connection to the school. There, Phoebe is introduced to the clandestine world of S3A2 and is forced to decide between her new friends and the promises of power and S3A2 status from the welcoming but strangely mysterious Headmaster Duff. In this first installment of a YA trilogy (for ages 12 and up), Phoebe Douse: S3A2 presents an adventure-filled, coming-of-age novel, with mystery and a touch of the paranormal. There are also themes on self-discovery, valuing culture and diversity, and building trust and friendship.