Since his first visit to St. Stephen’s School for Boys, Mauricio Londoño has been mesmerized
by it and knows he wants to attend high school there. Everything in the school, from the expensive
looking red velvet curtains hanging over the stage to the trays with the school insignia in the
cafeteria, speaks to him of money and privilege and of a world he has never known where he craves
When he is accepted, Mauricio is ecstatic. Soon he realizes daily life at a prep school is not
what he expected. Most of the students have been together since kindergarten and the patterns of
friendship and hate are already set among them, marking him as an outsider. Then one day he is
assigned to work with Henry, the richest and smartest boy in his class, on an English project.
While in Henry's house, he meets his twin sister, Elizabeth.
Mauricio is in love.
He is in love with Elizabeth’s beauty and with Henry’s world and desperately tries to become his
For several months, Mauricio and Henry remain close. But when Mauricio is accused of setting up
a digital scheme against Zimmer, the boy everybody at school seems simultaneously to hate and to
court, the inequality of their relationship is reveled. By exposing the scheme, Mauricio starts a
chain reaction which changes his perception of the school and Henry forever.
The author, who was previously an English teacher, stages Mauricio’s awakening in parallel with
the themes of the books the 9th graders discuss in English class: from the power thirst which drives
Macbeth, to the insulated world money buys for the characters in The Great Gatsby and
the distorted reality Holden inhabits in The Catcher in the Rye.
Set in the upper class world of Manhattan, Initiation revisits the same territory as
other recent, highly popular YA books but in a sensible, realistic manner that is much more to my
liking. I also appreciated that the grownups are well developed and not clueless puppets written
to fit the story, as they are too often in YA novels.
Reminiscent of Brideshead Revisited and The Catcher in the Rye, Initiation
is still an original story with a distinctive voice and pace that draws from these earlier works
without imitating them.
Overall a satisfying read.