Tradition by Brendan Kiely – Review


Title: Tradition

Author: Brendan Kiely

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Summary: from Goodreads

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?


The topics of sexual assault, rape culture and sexism are more in the spotlight than possibly ever before due to recent movements like MeToo and I think it is such an important thing to discuss in young adult novels especially. Tradition goes deep into the nature of an expensive ‘traditional’ private school and shows how toxic the atmosphere there can be for anyone who doesn’t adhere to the so called ‘traditions’ of that school. These traditions only really benefit a select few, and cause damage to many others, herein lies the problem.

The story follows two seniors at Fullbrook Academy, one is a female student who has been attending the school for years and the other is a new male student attending on a sports scholarship. It is fascinating to get both their perspectives as the story progresses as they are in very different positions at the beginning of the book. I liked this method a lot and felt like as a reader I got a really honest insight into the thoughts and feelings of these two young adults and seeing how their perceptions of each other changed as the novel moved along was really interesting. There is a lot in this book about toxic masculinity, the power of privilege and how in so many cases a man’s voice always seems to count for more than a woman’s especially if the young man in question comes from a rich and powerful family. Obviously this was not always pleasant to read about but it is such an incredibly necessary conversation that needs to be had. Despite these intense themes there is a lot that is quite hopeful and positive in Tradition. The importance of friendship is made very clear, and the importance of having people you trust standing by your side. The friendships in this novel give the darkness it portrays moments of positivity and hope that at some point things will start to change.

I did like this book a lot, however I do feel that despite understanding the motives and feelings of the characters I didn’t connect to them as much as I would have liked. I would have found the book even more affecting if I had felt like I knew these characters even better. There were a few peripheral characters that seemed a little one dimensional and stereotypical to me in some cases and again that took me out of the story a little. Despite this, overall I think Tradition is an important book about something frighteningly relevant and is definitely worth reading.

Tradition is out now.

I received this e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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