Book Review: The Nine by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (ARC)

The Nine

Author: Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Publication Date: 20 August 2019

Genre: Adult Fiction – Thriller

Pages: 328

Publisher: She Writes Press

Hannah Webber fears she will never be a mother, but her prayers are finally answered when she gives birth to a son. In an era of high-stakes parenting, nurturing Sam’s intellect becomes Hannah’s life purpose. She invests body and soul into his development, much to the detriment of her marriage. She convinces herself, however, that Sam’s acceptance at age fourteen to the most prestigious of New England boarding schools overseen by an illustrious headmaster, justifies her choices. 

When he arrives at Dunning, Sam is glad to be out from under his mother’s close watch. And he enjoys his newfound freedom―until, late one night, he stumbles upon evidence of sexual misconduct at the school and is unable to shake the discovery. 

Both a coming-of-age novel and a portrait of an evolving mother-son relationship, The Nine is the story of young man who chooses to expose a corrupt world operating under its own set of rules―even if it means jeopardizing his mother’s hopes and dreams.

Hannah Webber wasn’t sure that she would be able to have children, but she’s finally able to conceive Sam. Hannah put her heart and soul into raising Sam at the cost of both her marriage to Edward and her own self interests. When the time for Sam to go to high school came, Hannah decided that Sam should only go to an elite prep school, so that Sam would have his pick of the top colleges. Hannah was thrilled when Sam was accepted to Dunning Academy, one of the most exclusive and prestigious prep schools in the country. She finally felt that her hard work and sacrifices were paying off.

While at Dunning, Sam experiences freedom from his overbearing mother for the first time and can’t help but rejoice in this new independence. What Sam doesn’t anticipate is the sheer amount of pressure that he would be under to succeed at Dunning. The competition is fierce. Students are taking Adderall just to get through the study load. Sam feels alone and like an outsider at Dunning since his family doesn’t come from the wealth that is he now surrounded by.

As Sam settles into Dunning, he learns of secret brotherhood called The Nine that is the exclusive society that every male dreams of getting into at Dunning. Sam feels that joining The Nine will finally be his chance of being accepted into this foreign community. Everything changes when he begins to uncover evidence of inappropriate behavior taking place at Dunning. Sam must come to terms with who he is most loyal to and the betrayals and deceit that he is faced with.

This story is a compelling and thought-provoking coming of age story for both Hannah and Sam that discusses important topics in contemporary society such as sex, bullying, drugs, and peer-pressure. One thing I really enjoyed about this story was the depth of the mother-son relationship of Hannah and Sam. Hannah could be really infuriating with the lengths that she went to in order to check in on Sam. That being said, your heart breaks for Hannah though because she wants nothing more than to be involved in her son’s life; he’s her entire reason for being. On the flip side, I could also sympathize with Sam’s need for independence and distance while adjusting to the grueling and strict expectations at Dunning.

Overall, this is a powerful story of love, self-discovery, betrayal, and deceit, which I highly recommend to those who love a good thriller/suspense…especially when it involves an elite boarding school that is harboring decades worth of secrets.

Thank you to Suzy from Suzy Approved Book Tours for the tour invitation and the author for providing an ARC. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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