If you have already read All-American Boys, Tradition is a similar story, only this time with toxic masculinity at the center.
If you haven’t read All-American Boys, get ready for an issue-focused morality tale. To a adult reader, the pacing, characterizations, development, and clarity of the “it’s tradition” theme might seem really overt to you, but oh, naive one, this book is not for us. It’s for the 17-year-old who hasn’t read a book cover to cover since elementary school and needs to be set up for the mind-blowing conclusion that Books Can Be About Real Things Featuring Characters That Talk Like The Way I Might Talk.
(And I also promise you the 17-year-old non-reader is going to have insights into this book that you, adult reader, would never think to think about.)
As a story, I had some issues with the plot pacing and felt like the big finale came on a little suddenly. I felt that some interesting side characters had under-explored issues that could have, maybe with a littttttle more tweaking, pushed the plot forward in a more significant way. But those concerns mattered little to me: I was in love with the characters, I was in love with the boarding school setting, and I found Kiely’s writing to be accessible and yet artistic and smooth.
If it were up to me, I’d pop this on the reading list of a high school health class. It also makes a good bookend to other boarding school novels about sex, masculinity, and isolation, like Catcher in the Rye.