A fast and fun read, and also one that kept me on the edge of my seat—the mystery part was well-done in my opinion, enough that I had my suspicions about a potential culprit, but without seeing it coming too easily.
I have a soft spot for boarding schools. I don't know why. Perhaps because I've always wondered in hindsight if I wouldn't have felt better in such a school as a teen? (Not necessarily a posh prep school. Just a school where I could be away from my family and experience things in a different way. As a university student, anyway, I was the kind of person who loved eating breakfast with others, spending time in each other's rooms, and various dorm activities.) So, boarding schools often tend to grab my interest for their closed community aspect, and for the closed setting they provide, too. You can't just walk away and ignore whatever problem happens there: you have to face it, whether the problem is gossip or a murder.
I didn't really like Anne in the very first chapters. She came off as a snotty brat, the kind of girl who knew she'd get away with everything just by batting her eyelashes, twirling a lock of hair between her fingers, and by basically "being her". Then she grew on me (and not like mildew). All in all, she was likeable. She had that ability to make people gravitate around her, but not in a condescending, Mean Girl way, which I something I can appreciate. No slut-shaming here, no attempts to make others look bad; when she refused to take crap, she did it in a direct, not a passive-aggressive way (often involving snark and sarcasm, but not underhanded). She wasn't perfect, and just like so many people, she tended to judge others on first impressions—yet she also did it on actions, and was able to revise her judgment when it appeared she was wrong. The potential for snotty, woe-is-me attitude went away quickly enough to my liking. Although Anne didn't want to stay at Wheatley, she acknowledged she hadn't much choice in the matter, so might as well do with it in the meantime.
Other characters were handled in believable ways. I wondered sometimes why the arson story wasn't thrown in her face more often, because it definitely could've been, especially by the characters who didn't like Anne; on the other hand, I also didn't find it too surprising that, considering her way of handling things, such a "rumour" wouldn't have looked like what would hurt her the most, and made her appear like the mysterious, dangerous, yet oddly attractive kid. The main Mean Girl character wasn't as cliché as I thought at first; even though I couldn't bring myself to like her, at least she had circumstances of her own. As for other high school clichés, they were nicely toyed with, and I didn't feel them as heavy as they did in other similar works I read in the past.
The romance part didn't really work for me. Fortunately, it never detracted from the story, never took precedence over the actual plot (investigation/murder), and I was very grateful for that. Only I just didn't care much for it.
I also questioned some choices on Anne's part at times. Mostly she came off as sensible, knowing she could end up in dangerous situations and preparing herself in case of. However, there were a few moments when I wondered if she wasn't too trusting of some people, in a setting where "trust no one" should've been a definite rule. I found this a little jarring, especially considering how she used people in general. (I don't mind the "use others" attitude in a place where everyone could potentially be a murderer, or at least someone with dirty secrets and a tendency to use their parents' money to become a problem to you; that was sort of logical. But if you do that, don't tell all your plans to some of those people either. Even though Anne investigating completely on her own wouldn't have been too interesting, I suppose.)
This set aside, I really liked this story, and will likely pick the next book... because we're clearly not done yet with the many skeletons in Wheatley's many closets.