by Brodi Ashton
To be published on September 6, 2016
by Balzer + Bray
Source: eARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity...it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row. Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country. Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington. The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?My take: I really liked Brodi Ashton's Everneath trilogy - yes, it was chockful of adolescent angst and had a bothersome love triangle, but it also had a compelling narrative voice and a lot of humor. So I've been really excited to read Diplomatic Immunity. Based on the cover and title, I was hoping it would be thrilling and filled with political intrigue, like an Ally Carter Gallagher Girls or Embassy Row book or Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Fixer series.
Sadly, I was a little underwhelmed. I felt like the premise had a lot of promise that was never fully realized.
Piper Barnes dreams of being an award-winning student journalist and is thrilled to receive a scholarship to Chiswick, a fancy DC prep school that educates the children of diplomats and politicians. I never completely warmed up to Piper. I related to her social awkwardness, but she whines because she doesn't get assigned all the best stories for the paper at her new school (hello, you're new!)
Then suddenly two guys are crazy about her, awkwardness and all. It's not the wrenching sort of love triangle Ashton wrote in her paranormal series, but I felt like one of the guys was just sort of thrown in there for no good reason. I felt a little uncomfortable with the way the other guy, the son of a Spanish diplomat, is saddled with this sort of awkward "Latin Lover" stereotype.
Piper's family situation was interesting to me (they are very low income and her brother is on the autism spectrum) and I wished those issues - the class differences between Piper and her classmates and perhaps the way her brother's medical issues contributed to the family's financial troubles - had been explored more.
But mostly, I wanted more plot - more intrigue and scandal. Piper is looking for a compelling story to win a journalism contest. She spends most of the book "investigating" her school and then finally tells the editor of the student paper that she's found an amazing story "involving drugs, fake IDs, binge drinking, pill-popping..." Uh... not that I condone that kind of behavior among teenagers, but sorry, I'm decidedly NOT shocked that this is going on and wasn't buying the fact that exposing typical rich kid hijinks at her school was going to win her any kind of award.
The book - and its title - do bring up an intriguing angle: that some of the students at her school are diplomats' kids and have diplomatic immunity. I waited patiently for that to come into play, but in the end the concept seemed underutilized. I mean, if a kid with diplomatic immunity was driving drunk, hit someone, and got away with it, I would have been outraged, but these kids just seemed up to regular rich kid misbehavior.
Piper puts together her story and then gets worried about exposing her classmates' secrets and seems to think that publishing the story anonymously is a good idea (Uh... okay. But how can she win the award if no one knows who wrote the article? She just never seemed to think things through.)
I guess I felt a bit let down by what I hoped the book would deliver versus what it actually did. Cover and title aside, this is NOT a political thriller in any way, shape or form (to be fair, the synopsis above is pretty accurate) but more like a rich boy-poor girl romance with a DC setting and an anticlimactic ending.
I will definitely try another Brodi Ashton book, but this one was a bit of a miss for me.