When her free-spirited mother dies in a tragic accident, sixteen-year-old Alexandria Lee is forced to leave her West Coast home and move in with a wealthy grandmother she’s never known in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful if unwilling member of the Magnolia League-Savannah’s long-standing debutante society. But white gloves and silk gowns are a far cry from the vintage t-shirts and torn jeans shorts she’s used to.
Alex is the first in decades to question the Magnolia League’s intentions, yet even she becomes entangled in their seductive world. The members enjoy youth, beauty and power…but at what cost? As Alex discovers a pact between the Magnolias and the Buzzards, a legendary hoodoo family, she discovers secrets-some deadly-hidden beneath the glossy Southern veneer.
It seems like many recent YA books are set in the South, but none have nailed its idiosyncrasies like Katie Crouch in The Magnolia League. Among her victims: syrupy sweet tea, the heat, Tara-like mansions, high fashion and higher heels, drawling accents, Southern pride, red velvet cake, and finally, debutantes. (Yes, they do still exist.)
Crouch takes the South’s affinity for elite secret societies, adds a hefty dose of Southern grotesque and mixes it with an equal measure of hoodoo to create a laugh-out-loud romp through the social strata of Savannah, GA. She relies on many stereotypes, but as a Southern gothic/grotesque, it works. I often found myself nodding and snickering.
There are a few things that don’t work quite so well, the main character topping the list. After her mother’s death, Alex has been transplanted from her granola hippie commune lifestyle to the polished and posh realm of the Southern belle. In order to make the contrast between the two, Crouch has to make Alex “other,” meaning, she doesn’t fit in. At times, it seems like she’s gone too far, making Alex a bit hard to like. I couldn’t get a good grasp of her personality and I often wondered what the other characters saw in her (besides her grandmother’s money and position). At times, I found myself siding with the girls who were supposed to be the antagonists. (Which reminds me of another hard-to-like Georgia heroine … )
The plot also gets a bit bogged down at the three-quarter mark, and I found myself wishing I could get to “the good part” sooner. I didn’t realize until the end that The Magnolia League is the first book in a series, so this helps explain why things didn’t move more quickly.
That said, it was insightful enough for me to want more, and mystical enough to keep me in suspense. I’m interested to see where the next book takes us and learn more about the dangers of Southern hoodoo. Something tells me Savannah will never be the same after Alex is through with it.
The Magnolia League is in stores today.