A Thrilling & Suspenseful Mystery | Review of Last Christmas (Private Series, #0.6)

By: Cynthia Ayala

Ariana Osgood wasn’t always the sociopath that everyone knew. Once upon a time, she was a meek girl who had everything that anyone could want: straight A’s, the perfect boyfriend, and the coveted spot in Billing’s House. But last Christmas, Ariana discovered what she was really capable of. Trapped on campus by a blizzard with notorious bad-boy Thomas Pearson. As everything she thought she knew about herself unravels as she finds comfort in the arms of Thomas Pearson, Ariana discovers that her simple holiday romance of love is about to turn into a nightmare when she catches someone watching her. And Ariana will do anything to keep her little secret safe. Anything…

Last Christmas is the prequel to the New York Times Bestselling Private series written by Kate Brian. Published by Simon & Shuster Children’s Publishing on October 6, 2008. A young adult novel that combines mystery and romance to build up the story of the most notorious character in the Private Series: Ariana Osgood.

Following the most notorious character in the Private series that fans of the series know as Ariana Osgood, Last Christmas goes back in time to tell the story of who she was before the Private series and how she became the person who went through the lengths she went through.

A word of caution: if this is the first novel in the series you would be pick up, don’t because it will ruin the suspense and intrigue held within the first arc of the Private series. It is clear that Kate Brian, the author, wrote this with the understanding that anyone picking it up is already familiar with the series, the character and her story.

Now this story develops her character beginning with one of the most pivotal moments in the Private series, delving into the events and the thought process behind it. Going back before the events took place, Brian sets about developing the character recounting who she is and allowing readers to study Ariana and her actions. There is so much going on, so much around her that opens her eyes to the world around her, opening her psyche turning her into a fearful character, a sympathetic character. Almost.

There is a sort of admiration that goes into developing this character. Ariana believes that she is strong, believes that her actions hold strength to them, when in fact it’s weakness, it’s fear drowning her down. Ariana is nothing more than a scared kid. As she comes face to face with the idea that she may lose her hopes and dreams, she loses touch with reality. It’s a steady and slow occurrence that readers are able to see unfold with clarity.

Brian develops much of her writing to developing the character, tying them to the development of the story. And as the story progresses and the character grows, readers won’t be able to put down the novel. Glued to the pages, the detail creates a teen drama for the audience to see within their mind, while at the same time leaving room for the imagination. Who needs television and the CW Network when you have gripping novels like this? Brian put intrigue, romance, and mystery in a boarding school setting, making it the perfect novel for the young adult readers. But she doesn’t load it up with drama, no, it’s the perfect balance to create this story and make it grounded instead of outrageously ridiculous.

Ariana is by no means the heroine, being very much the villain of the Private series, but like most well-constructed villains, she’s alluring. A broken character with such a frail attachment to reality. Once you know her future and read her past, there is no denying that the reader will sympathize with the character. (★★★★☆ | A)

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