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Last Christmas by Kate Brian
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I bought this book wanting a Christmas theme and some young adult love intrigue. A nice, love triangle with a bit of suspense, and how two young people find each other. Well...yeah. That's not what I got. The is one the darkest and most psychotic young adults books I've ever read. It is the prequel to a bestselling series that I have not read, so I thought what better way to start a series than with the prequel? Yeah, don't do that. I'm guessing, based on other reviews of this book which were mostly glowing, you need to have some emotional involvement into the The Private series in order for Last Christmas to work for you. For me, I am left with a stricken look on my face and no interest in the actual series.

The book starts out with the typical girl who has issues in her private life, sticks to the rules in her daily life, and has a great boyfriend. She begins to rebel a bit and have feelings for the hot 'bad boy' at the private school and becomes torn for who she wants to be with. Leaving her boyfriend would have serious social consequences, not to mention the bad boy is a notorious bad boy. The appeal to the reader is strong and you actually find yourself rooting for the shy girl to break out of her shell and go for the guy that is totally wrong for her, so she can redeem him and make him totally right. Not in this story.

Ariana is the main character torn between her rich, handsome boyfriend Daniel and the rich, handsome bad boy Thomas. Basically, all kinds of things happen when Ariana and Thomas are both stuck at school over Christmas break, give in to their feelings for each other, and the intrigue is someone is spying on them. Since this is also a type of forbidden love, there being steep consequences if they are caught on campus, the book draws you in to their young plight to be together. As things unfold, we realize that Ariana has the makings to be a serious sociopath. Yes, serious sociopath. And Thomas? Let's just say he isn't all he is cracked up to be. These two people I championed, I ended up having deep disgust for each.

By the end of the book, I was completely turned upside down by what I thought of the plot and the turn this book took. For me, not a turn in a good way. Again, this is a prequel to a well established series, so if I had been acquainted with these characters as they are revealed in the main series, I may have a very different view of this book. But, read as is, I do not care for it myself. I just have no desire to see what seem like perfectly fine young people turn into mental cases for a relationship.

I also have no desire to see how sex was handled in this young adult book. It was choppy and not believable to me how certain situations evolve all around. For example, who has sex with the guy they want to be with, then continues a relationship with her current boyfriend sexually to keep up pretenses, and the other guy knows it? And what guy is OK with that? The book just becomes disorienting for me and a complete let down in character and relationship department.

I will give the writer good marks for writing style and plot twists. The writer does tell a story that is easily followed and I admit I NEVER saw where the plot was going to go. There really isn't a whole lot I can say without giving the plot twists away, just keep in mind this not a happy young adult story with some mystery. I will say if you are a fan of The Private series, you may have a whole different perspective and would know to expect a dark book. For those of you not already invested in the series, do not read the prequel first. Reviewing as is, as the prequel to a series, I did not care for it. It does not in any shape or form make me want to see what happens next. ( )
  Urbanfan | Dec 19, 2010 |
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

****SPOILER ALERT**** For readers who haven't read beyond CONFESSIONS in the PRIVATE series, this book is best left unread. Details in LAST CHRISTMAS will ruin much of the suspense in the first four books of the series.

LAST CHRISTMAS is a great addition to the series by Kate Brian. The story gives much needed background insight into Ariana Osgood, the Billings girl arrested for the murder of Thomas Pearson.

The story begins near Christmas break of Ariana's junior year. When we meet Ariana in the first book of the series, PRIVATE, she is one of the privileged senior girls at Easton Academy. But in LAST CHRISTMAS, she is the na�ve, innocent roommate to Noelle Lange. Ariana is the good girl that does what is expected of her. She gets top grades, lives in the most respected dormitory, and has the perfect boyfriend, Daniel Ryan. Her mother couldn't be prouder of her.

Daniel isn't 100% perfect though. He's incredibly jealous and protective of Ariana. At the Winter Ball, he torments Sergei, a Latvian exchange student, because he caught Sergei taking photos of Ariana throughout the dance. Ariana is to spend the two weeks of Christmas break at a ski resort with Daniel and his family. And Daniel is expecting her to have sex with him while they are there. They are both (supposedly) virgins, and Ariana didn't want their first time to be in a dorm bed.

It's the final day before the school break, and Ariana has yet to finish an English paper. If she doesn't turn it in before 6pm, she will fail the assignment. So she has Daniel and his twin sister, Paige, head out without her. She promises to take a later train.

But she gets sidetracked by Thomas Pearson. He has been showing up in unexpected places over the last few days. And he shows up in the deserted classroom building as she turns in her completed paper. In a split second, Ariana gives up fighting the electric attraction she's been feeling for Thomas.

From that moment on, the snowball of her actions grows until innocent people start to get hurt. A snowstorm hits campus and strands Thomas and Ariana. Neither can be caught, because Headmaster Cox made it perfectly clear that anyone caught on campus who was not scheduled to be there will be expelled, no exceptions.

LAST CHRISTMAS is the perfect companion to the PRIVATE series. Ariana's specter hangs over the entire series long after she is carted away for Thomas' murder. This gives an inside look to her growing mental problems after she becomes involved with Thomas. I believe it also gives a good basis for the spin-off series, PRIVILEGE, due out in December 2008. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 11, 2009 |
Before Reed Brennan started dating Thomas Pearson, Ariana had a relationship with him. Last Christmas is the story about their relationship and the aftermath that followed.

Easton Academy is preparing for winter break. Ariana is spending the holidays with her boyfriend’s family in Vermont. She’s fortunate to do so, however it just doesn’t feel quite right. As she struggles with these feelings, her attraction towards bad boy, Thomas, grows. When she’s forced to stay later on campus to finish an English paper, she learns Thomas has stayed as well. He taunts her about her “good girl” image and soon Ariana starts to behave in ways that both shock and excite her.

Last Christmas provides more insight about Ariana and the events that led to Thomas’s death. It’s also a good companion to the Privilege series. I especially like Thomas and now wish Ms. Brian didn’t kill his character so early in the Private series.

Ariana Osgood is a character readers will love to hate. She fears becoming like her mother and has to be in control at all times. It’s shocking to read how extreme she becomes when her perfect world is threatened. She’s delusional, mentally unstable, but so put together it’s quite scary. She knows what she wants, how to get it and won’t allow anything or anyone to stand in her way.

What I liked best about Last Christmas was the focus was primarily on Ariana and Noelle wasn’t as powerful as she is in later books. Last Christmas allows readers an up close and personal look into Ariana’s history and current thoughts. If you’re a fan of the Private and Privilege series, you will not be disappointed with Last Christmas. ( )
  scoutlee | Aug 26, 2009 |
This prequel reveals the secret of what really happened before "Private" book series began -- The story gives much needed background insight into Ariana Osgood, the Billings girl arrested for the murder of Thomas Pearson.

The story begins near Christmas break of Ariana's junior year. When we meet Ariana in the first book of the series, "Private", she is one of the privileged senior girls at Easton Academy. But in "Last Christmas: The Private Prequel", she is the naïve, innocent roommate to Noelle Lange. Ariana is the good girl that does what is expected of her. She gets top grades, lives in the most respected dormitory, and has the perfect boyfriend, Daniel Ryan. Her mother couldn't be prouder of her.

I like what Brian has done with this prequel. It is consistent to the things that go on in the "Private" book series and manages to put on a few surprises as well. As usual in this unpredictable series, there are some twists and turns that will leave you wanting more.

Ariana is humanized in this book, so much so that I felt sorry for her. The characterization is excellent. She has psychotic and obsessive tendencies long before everything unfolds. They are subtle, and Brian shows this rather than tell it, which makes it all the more brilliant. Speaking of great characters, Thomas is wonderful. He has his flaws, of course, but he is a far more interesting male character than Gage, Dash, and even Josh. If only Brian hadn't killed him so soon in the series. The disappointing thing in this book is that Noelle seldom appears in this book. However, it is nice to see her in a position where she isn't as powerful or as influential as she becomes later on.

Book Details:

Title Last Christmas: The Private Prequel (Private series)
Author Kate Brian
Reviewed By Purplycookie ( )
  purplycookie | Apr 12, 2009 |
Having not read the previous books in this series, I was afraid I would be totally lost while reading this book. Even though I've read other YA fiction like Gossip Girl or The A List, somehow the Private series never really appealed to me. And after reading this book, I'm still not sure if it does. This is apparently a new trend in the publishing world, to have a prequel come out in between ending a series and then starting a new spin off.

The characters, at least in this book, aren't very likable. Ariana doesn't have a backbone, her boyfriend is controlling, her roommates and other friends are rich spoiled socialites, and the "bad" boy isn't very bad. Something that kind of bugged me throughout the book was if Ariana and Thomas were in a dorm that was freezing and had no heat, how could they even possibly think about having sex? Why would you remove clothes? It kept taking me away from the story.

I noticed less fashion talk that other YA novels which was refreshing. Alcohol consumption is frequent, because obviously drinking laws don't apply to rich kids. Sex is a big factor in the story as usual. A great deal of the story is focused on Ariana picking a time and place to lose her virginity. I did not notice much cursing throughout the book, at least not as much as the Gossip Girl books use.

What does make the story unique is more violence with a mystery in the plot. And after reading some interviews with the author, that was the intention of the series. I wasn't too surprised to see the characters act so callously about death/murder. Money tends to numb your senses. It makes for a very interesting story and it does make me want to go back and see what happens now to Ariana and Thomas. It's just I feel like I don't really care about these characters and the book didn't convince me enough to do so. ( )
  mrsjason | Mar 7, 2009 |
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Arianna Osgood should be in Vermont with her boyfriend but she is stranded at Easton with Thomas Pearson and someone is watching them.

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