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Reviews of ‘The Four’ by Ellie Keel

Reviewer: @betweenthecovers_cj (Instagram)

Rating: 4.5/5

“An intensely gripping, thrilling and darkly beautiful debut. I was hooked.” —Karin Slaughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Its rare that a book stays on my mind for days or weeks after I have read it. The Four has stayed with me since closing the book. It was filled with tension, complex emotions, trauma, found family and the battle of loyalty verses morality (check trigger warnings). This story explores just how far one will go for their friends…

I was completely invested in the story and the lives of all four students. I was captivated by the stark contrast of class and power. The atmosphere of the private school and spiralling secrets had me glued to the story – only really putting it down for sleep. I loved that we were seeing the story from Rose’s perspective as the narrator, maybe the most innocent and tender of the Four but not without her own trauma and inner turmoil. While this was a young adult read, the setting and pace made the impact of the story thrilling and powerful with the themes leaning towards are deeper, darker side of fiction.

Dark academia is a newer genre for me but this was the perfect introduction. This was an amazing read and even more impressive as a debut novel – I highly recommend!

Thank you @jonathanballpublishers for gifting me a copy of The Four – a top read for 2024!

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Reviewer: @shelves_by_sim (Instagram)

Rating: 4/5

I had to have this book for that cover!! It’s so gorgeous and I’m still obsessed with it! I think the premise of this book was really good, I like the way it was written and the way the story was told by Rose. It’s such a perfect example of how hard it is to be from a different class of people and just how difficult it is to have to integrate yourself with elitists – especially as a teenager.

There were some parts of the story that were really dark, it has excessive bullying and some references to sexual assault so I definitely recommend checking trigger warnings. The bullying did irritate me a little, I felt like it came from everyone and it was just alot to take in.

What I absolutely loved was how this story reminded me of The Perks of being a Wallflower. Not in the sense that the plot is the same but the way it was written, the way these tragedies in the characters lives were told, it felt more like watching the story happen from an outsiders perspective. Because even though Rose is the FMC, Marta was the object of the story. Her struggles and her truths are why Rose was telling this story. And I just loved it.

I also really loved the poetry and literature references that were used to exaggerate a point. It added emphasis and depth to the storytelling and really made it intriguing. I did feel that the mystery agitated me a little, I was desperate to uncover their secrets and yet everytime I thought I was getting somewhere, it felt like Rose goes on a tangent, she’d introduce multiple anecdotes in between order to convey a point she was trying to make – but it didn’t take away from the book at all.

The ending was so sad, after all they went through, they deserved a lot more. This story was powerful and really shows you that sometimes doing the right thing does not necessarily coincide with the law, and the lines between good and bad can become grey.

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Reviewer: @roelia_reads (Instagram)

“The Four” is a dark and atmospheric novel by Elise Keel that delves into the psyche of its characters and the environment that shapes them. The setting is a private and elite school, steeped in secrets, and Keel uses vivid descriptions to bring the secluded world to life.

The narrative is tense, with each chapter tightening the knot of suspense. The characters’ relationships are messy and fraught with complexity, driven by loyalty, guilt, and toxic friendships. The story is relentlessly dark, with brutal realities of bullying, cruelty, elitism, and privilege.

Keel’s writing captures the essence of apprehension and tension with every word, making it an impressive and evocative journey that must be approached with eyes wide open.

Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for this ARC copy!

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Reviewer: @readingwithloe (Instagram)

How do I begin this review??? Okay… I think I got it…

This book was a lot to take in at first. For most of the book, it was just me trying to figure out the characters and who they are.

The Four is based on four characters that are at The High Realms, which is a very high top-notch school. The four students, Rose, Sami, Lloyd, and Martha are students who took a test to determine whether they get into the school on an all-paid scholarship, which they did.

The book doesn’t have multiple points of view. I later realized that this story was being told by Rose. The book does deal with a lot of hard topics, such as self-harm, sexual assault, suicide, bullying, and many more.

There are so many secrets being kept, so many people that you as a reader don’t know who is going to pull the knife and stab who in the back.

If I read this alone, I would have not managed to get through the endless amount of emotions. I’m so grateful for my good friend @book.sushi for the Buddy read. Having read this with her, we were constantly venting out our frustration and I absolutely loved that.

The pace of the book was a bit slow at first but it quickly picked up halfway through. The chapters are lengthy but very gripping and it becomes difficult to put it down.

(Thank you to @jonathanballpublishers for sending me this copy.)

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Reviewer: @galaxy_o_honey (Instagram)

“Otherwise, it was already a lonely experience amidst the cultish atmosphere of High Realms – where, we were coming to understand, the students danced a complex polka of loyalty, honour, and revenge, the steps of which we had not yet learned.”

The Four is said to be the Dark Academia book of 2024 and that’s what drew me in – and the references to it being similar to The Secret History. The book follows four scholarship students of High Realms: Rose, Marta, Lloyd, and Sami. Immediately we can see that they don’t fit into this new world of power and prestige. Written from the perspective of an older Rose, we find out what really happened during their time at High Realms.

Tbh I didn’t really get a feel for the characters – despite being friends they’re rarely together. The only time we really get into their background was in the beginning but that was brief. This could be because the book centers mainly on Marta, who was probably the only character with depth. Marta’s character was unpredictable and as the novel progressed into its darker and tragic themes, so did her character.

True to its description, the plot was dark and tragic (check trigger warnings before reading). The romantic moments felt random at times seeming to come out of nowhere. But other than that, the unfolding of the plot made me want to continue reading to find out the truth. It’s a fast-paced book that will have you at the edge of your seat. And I mean how could it not with this opening line: “It would have made our lives a lot easier if Marta had simply pushed Genevieve out of our bedroom window on our third day at High Realms.”

Thank you @jonathanballpublishers for an arc, this debut novel comes out April!

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Reviewer: @book.sushi (Instagram)

The Four was exactly what I needed for a change of genre and pace.

Firstly, there are some trigger warnings: bullying, self-harm, rape and suicide.

The first chapter is like a slap of cold water in the face, and it gives a good indication of what the rest of the book is going to be like. We meet Marta, Rose, Sami, and Lloyd, and the story is told from Rose’s POV.

The four of them are scholarship students amongst the rich and elite. Definitely out of their depths at High Realms (sounds magical doesn’t it…but don’t let it fool you) “it’s a world whose understanding of good and evil was entirely and terrifyingly its own”.

The story only starts finding its feet a couple of chapters in and then starts picking up pace by the 4th quarter. I read this book in 5 days. I had to read it in bits as it was quite rough on your emotions. …be warned! It has some light-hearted moments, but those are very few and far between.

As the scholarship four try to find their way in this new environment, instead of being made to feel welcome, they are met with hostility, cruelty, and derision. Its all uncalled for and just seems to be because they are poor/ scholarship kids. Marta is the main focus of a lot of this as she is different. She doesn’t conform to the norm, and this poses a threat to the ones who feel they have the power at the school. Then, when a huge accident occurs, it throws everything off balance, and now the four need to work together now more than ever to save one of their own.

We had a lot of discussions on what we thought was going on, some were spot on and others were a bit off. I can’t say I loved it, but what it is is different. I wish the author had perhaps done a character note with their school grading and position so we could understand better as it was very confusing for me. Although she did include a stunning pic of the school map.

I am so thankful that I had my favorite bookish friend @readingwithloe to be my partner for this buddy read as I don’t know if I would have finished it on my own. Thank you to jbp for gifting me this review copy.

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