The Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian (336 pages)
In the Chandler Legacies, Characters Find Power Through Truth and Writing
High school drama and politics are difficult to navigate, but those difficulties are exacerbated at boarding schools like Chandler Academy. Chandler is a prestigious school in Connecticut that is home to all kinds of students looking for a leg up in their future endeavors, and is especially helpful for those chosen for the Circle. The Circle is a secret creative writing workshop led by an even more mysterious professor named Douglas. Members are encouraged to write their truths — and the inductees of 1999 certainly have a lot of secrets to spill.
Spence, a White and Indian American queen bee, is struggling under the weight of cripplingly high standards. Freddy, who is Cuban and Brazilian American, might be a jock, but he wants others to see him for his thoughtfulness of the field. Ramin, an Iranian immigrant, knows it’s safer to be openly gay in America than in Iran, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely without its trials. Brunson’s compulsion to overachieve causes her immense stress, as does her desire to keep her sexual orientation a secret. And Beth is a bit of an outcast because of her crippling anxiety and the fact that she’s one of the only townies at school. While each of these students is dealing with their own realities, their stories begin to intersect in surprising ways.
Honestly At All Costs
While each of these characters could probably carry a story on their own, the way they intersect is really what makes the plot interesting. The story is told from a third-person present perspective, giving us access to all the characters as they weave through the narrative. But because the characters’ stories are ultimately connected, we start to see certain events from multiple perspectives and learn different versions of the “truth” as the story progresses.
The creative writing workshop and its mission of helping students find their truth also helps propel these teens toward finding their place in their “home away from home.” Boarding school stories always offer something a bit beyond stories that take place in a typical high school because these characters can’t get away from each other. They see each other at dinner, on weekends, and any time in between. But while their realizations come more quickly, the webs connecting them are also more complicated, which makes for a meatier read.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars.
This story really tries to tackle a lot: hazing, homophobia, sexual assault, coming out, and a number of other genuine struggles that teens face. These topics are handled compassionately and the characters’ emotions and behaviors within these situations seem genuine. That being said, the third-person point of view can make differentiating among certain characters difficult at times. Thoughts often get jumbled without the more clear first-person narration. But all things considered, Nazemian strikes again with another touching and poignant look at how some of our most vulnerable teens are grappling with their emotions. And if you want more from him, check out my review of Nazemian’s Like a Love Story.
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table