I like this book and it was a quick read.
The story alternates between ancient Rome, 2 years ago from the present day and the present day. There are 4 main characters. Amphiclea who is in ancient Rome; Gretchen in the 2 years ago from present day and Ariel and Jessica in the present day. However Gretchen, Jessica and Ariel are in all chapters that don't have to do with Ancient Rome and the povs change usually after an Ancient Rome chapter. With these three Gretchen and Jessica are best friends and Ariel is an outsider at first but years later becomes their friends.
The basic plot of the story is a murder mystery. Grtechen's mom is the head of the Oculus society which is basically a status society that wealthy people are in. Underneath that facade, a few members and I'm talking like 6 total know the real reason that the society exists. Its to protect what they call the Plotinus ability. Gretchen's mother is murdered in her own home during Gretchen's 8th graduation party. Both Jessica and Gretchen are part of the Oculus society but after Gretchen's mother died, Jessica was told the real reason why they exist and she told Gretchen. Basically the Plotinus ability is "given" or allowed to be performed by one member and it was supposed to go to Gretchen. But after the murder and Gretchen's depression, they decided to give it to Jessica. Gretchen and Jessica decide to try to use the ability in secret to find out who killed Gretchen's mother. Gretchen thinks its Ariel, her fellow classmate. In this part of the story Ariel is an outsider that no one likes. To get back at Gretchen and Jessica who are mean to her she videotapes the two performing the ritual which to an observer looks like the two girls are kissing. Ariel then puts the video on youtube and it goes viral. Jessica and Gretchen disappear and somehow Ariel become the most popular girl in High school. Fast forward 2 years where Gretchen and Jessica return to Delphi (they're hometown) and they recruit Ariel to help them find Gretchen's mom's killer, which is the second half of the book. The Ancient Rome chapters, which are in Amphiclea's pov, basically give the history of the Plotinus ability and tells about what happened with Plotinus.
I found that I enjoyed the Ancient Rome chapters the best. I liked the story in general but those chapters were the best ones. They're full of roman culture and how people lived back then. The murder mystery is good and I was stumped at who did it about halfway to the book. Then I figured out who was the murderer and it was interesting to see how the characters came to the same conclusion as I did only they did it A LOT later on in the book.
I really didn't like Gretchen at all. She just rubbed me the wrong way. She was one of those stuck up girls that I always avoided in school because if they started with me I'd end up being suspended for punching them in the face. Gretchen thinks she all that and more and that she's perfect. She is even bitchy, on the inside anyway, towards her best friend Jessica. When a guys she likes flirted with Jessica she had nasty thoughts and turned his attention away from Jessica to her. She was really mean to Ariel calling her a loser. Here's a shiny quote from Gretchen's pov about Ariel: "But there was just something off about her. And when everyone found out that her mom was a lunch lady...well, after that it was full blown banishment". Wow really? Not being friends with some one because of their mom's job? WTF cares? Another thing that bothered me about her and showed me she was "That kind" of character was on the very first page of her pov she constantly kept fixing her grad hat because "It was messing up her blow out". Just...wow. The stupidity. I was not that dumb and into myself at 13 (their age in the "2 years before the present chapters"). I just really didn't like Gretchen or care enough about her that her mom was murdered. Yes it was terrible but I just found myself not caring at all about finding out who did it or about her emotions about the whole thing. She believed that Ariel was her mom's murderer which is ridiculous because Ariel was a 13 year old girl at the time. Shen sent threatening messages to her and harassed her. She was also "Its all about me" after the murder, thinking nasty thoughts about Jessica because she wasn't there all the time. She was just a bitch.
I didn't really like Ariel either. She was annoying. When we first meet her she is calling out rude comments during her graduation ceremony at Gretchen's mom when she was presenting/speeching (lol I made up a word!) about the Oculus society. She was massively annoying. It's like when your sitting at a movie or a concert or a game and the person behind you is yelling things that are stupid and you just want to turn around and deck them. That's how I felt about Ariel. I wanted to punch her. The she did a nasty thing and posted a video of Jessica and Gretchen kissing. Fast forward 2 years and Ariel is popular but still unhappy. She whines so much about how she regrets posting the video, how she never meant for both girls to go away, how she can't eat and how she sees her school counselor about her guilt. It was all poor me. Please. Man up and grow a pair. She did something nasty now she has to deal with the consequences. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. She genuinely is sorry for what she did but to me its too little too late.
I really liked Jessica. She was bubbly, funny but serious when she wanted to be. She was mean to Ariel as well but she just ignored her, not be outright mean. She is a loyal friend who was there for Gretchen through the whole murder and its aftermath. She included Gretchen in the Plotinus ability although she wasn't supposed to. She was willing to use the ability, secretly, to help her friend find the murderer. When the video Ariel posted went out, she left to go with Gretchen and helped her plan how to find out her mother's murderer. Jessica didn't have an easy life either. Both her parent died in a car crash and she was living with her bitchy aunt Michelle and cool step-uncle Rob, who was more like a kid than a parent figure.
I also liked Amphiclea. She was very loyal to her friend Gemina who was the first woman to practice the Plotinus ability with Plotinus. Amphiclea worried for her friend and worried that she was making a mistake in performing the ability. She helped Gemina in any way she could.
There was really no romance in the book. Sure Ariel had a boyfriend Nick and Jessica had a boyfriend also but there was no focus on that at all. It was all about the ability and finding the murderer. Which I have to say is refreshing to read. Its seems like I can't pick up a book without there being some kind of romance and I'm glad to have a break from that.