Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Oligarchy is a sharp, dark novel about rich teenagers, eating disorders, and the secrets of a boarding school. Tash is the daughter of a Russian oligarch and has suddenly been sent to an English boarding school. The wifi use is restricted, the hierarchies are strange, and everyone is obsessed with looks and eating even though they can barely get on Instagram without surreptitious means. She ends up part of the group of troublemakers, all willing to go further than the rest, but when one of them, Bianca, vanishes and the school seems weirdly inept at dealing with the eating disorder epidemic, it seems there could be more at play.

The first things to know about this novel are that it is very much focused around disordered eating in various ways, and that it is a kind of twisted adult novel rather than the YA title some people might assume from a very brief summary. Coming into the book with the right expectations seems important, as then its blend of fantastical and deeply cutting will be making points and exploring darkness rather than seeming in strange taste. The third person narration is mostly around Tash’s perspective, with a side plot of Russian-backwater-to-riches and a shady aunt who lives in London that you almost want more of. In general, the book is more focused on small details and dark, witty moments than the overall pace of narrative, and these are what creates its tone, taking both teenage peer pressure and power abuse in boarding schools to particular heights for effect.

Oligarchy is an in-your-face novel that won’t be for everyone, a dark look at body image and how the internet can exacerbate mental states around things like eating disorders that also manages to be witty and strange.