Fiction, YA Fiction

#MithilaReviewsBooks – Tradition by Brendan Kiely

I received a review copy of “Tradition” by Brendan Kiely from Penguin India. Thank you so much!

There’s an interesting quote mentioned at the beginning of this book, which sets the tone for the topic the author wishes to highlight in his book.

There’s really no such thing as the “voiceless.” There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.

~Arundhati Roy


The two main characters in this book are Jules Devereux and James Baxter. They narrate the story from their points of view, and simultaneously carry the story forward.

Jules is the classic A-grade student at Fullbrook Academy and is on the Dean’s list. She wants to focus on academics and creating awareness about important issues like women’s health, feminism and nothing else. Not boys, not student politics, not hockey, not any of the pastimes her fellow classmates seem to enjoy to no end. But, being a girl + woke + ambitious is not easily tolerated in this school.

James is the black sheep at Fullbrook. He’s here on a hockey scholarship and a second chance. A second chance he feels unable to live up to. He’s trying to cope up academically, athletically, socially and emotionally, and the cherry on top, his anger management issues. But while co-existing with a group of entitled *insert a bad word of your choice*, it’s really tough to conform + be yourself.

Jules, James and their friends Javi and Aileen are victims of the various pressures that surround Fullbrook. Will they be able to take a stand stand together against their classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

Side note: In my opinion (for reasons you will understand once you read the book), the inflictors of such pressures are also victims of the whole system.

What I liked about this book is that it speaks openly about concepts like toxic masculinity, social hierarchy prevalent in elite (which can be extrapolated to non-elite) schools, demoralising traditions, the anguish that rape victims experience and the lack of social support experienced by them, sexist traditions, stigma faced by members from the LGBT community, the uber-competitiveness of sports. And the manner of conveying this message is matter-of-fact yet very relatable. A fine balance to maintain.

What I didn’t like about this book is: the actual crux of the story started developing after 40% of the story was done. So in the first 40%, I got confused about where the story is heading and what the plot of the story exactly is.

Till the time I reached the last part of the book (the book is divided into four (unequal) parts), my only worry was whether the author would be able to convey the main point of ‘standing up against toxic traditions’ successfully or not. The author did it, but it didn’t leave an impact on me. Unlike other YA Fiction books with a strong message, this one didn’t sucker punch me in the gut with the finale. I could close the book and get back to my daily routine quite easily.

Note: I was completely interested in the book, and was not indifferent to the message the author was trying to convey. In fact, this is the type of book I wish I had read at fifteen when I was starting college after leaving an all-girls school.

I give this book a 3.5/5 stars, and recommend it to students starting off with college.





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