Secret Society by Tom Dolby
I borrowed the "Shhh" image from liberated boy. I was unable to find contact info for permission, so I hope it's okay -- let me know if you're the liberated boy in question.
Secret Society never did grab me, unfortunately, but let me tell you about it. For hundreds of years, there has been an underground society in which the rich and famous become and stay powerful people. By linking together, they offer each other opportunities that regular people can never imagine. This story follows three students who have been chosen to join the society. The invitations always come during one's junior year in high school. Initiates must follow the rules and show up when summoned or else.
Both the lure of the society and the "or else" sort of fell short, in my opinion. For the most part, they go to a lot of parties and the previous year's initiates become mentors of the new members. They party frequently, are driven home if they choose to be (a line of dark cars waits outside, after each party), are given lavish gifts and incredible opportunities. They never get a chance to opt out. Lauren is offered a job working for a famous designer (by the designer, himself), given a Bellagio bag, and her jewelry designs are put into production, for example.
The trouble is . . . all three main characters are suspicious from the outset. And, they are people with money, but they're also all very down-to-earth. I had trouble with that. I can imagine one person rebelling from the society, but zoning in on three characters and then having all three of them suspicious of the organization and unsure that they want to be involved just did not work. I also thought it was very strange that they were wined and dined, but it wasn't so much a Cinderella experience as an occasional dip into this other world -- with a ridiculous amount of alcohol involved and even a drugging that made no particular sense (except maybe they didn't want anyone to fight getting the society's mark). When they were expected at a party, sometimes they had to do some last-minute shopping. There wasn't anything marvelously appealing about society membership, in other words.
The whole time I was reading this book, I thought (vain, vain, I know), "I could have done better." That sounds so awful, but I just didn't think the author had a very good understanding of how to create a secret group that would be worth the lure. Why not take everyone to a designer and have dresses made and fitted, for example, rather than having the kids scramble to find something appropriate for another stupid party where there are too many secrets and more frustration than fun? How about some of the established members loaning the new initiates jewelry, flying them to fun places, making them feel the "jet set" life? Also, the "or else" . . . gah. Pitiful. It's kind of obvious from the beginning, but I suppose it could be a spoiler. It's so ridiculous. I just didn't buy it.
There's also someone trying to infiltrate the society, but I'm not even going to get into that. 4 kids who are talented, ambitious, and already certain of what they want to do in a single book was just too much for me. The writing was fluid enough. The book just wasn't that great.
*****5/10 Twinkles - too implausible, not magical enough, decent writing but nothing special