Review: “Last Christmas” Appreciates Villain’s Backstory (Private Series, #0.6)

Cynthia Ayala ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Last Christmas is the prequel to the New York Times Bestselling Private series written by Kate Brian, and published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing on October 6, 2008. It’s a young adult novel that combines mystery and romance to build up the story of the most notorious character in the Private series: Ariana Osgood.

Following the most notorious character in the Private series that fans of the series know as Ariana Osgood, Last Christmas goes back in time to tell the story of who she was before the Private series, how she became the sociopath fans know her to be, and what drove her to commit such heinous acts within the Private and Privilege series.

Last Christmas: The Private Prequel
Image Credit: Simon & Schuster

A word of caution: if this is the first novel in the series you’re inclined pick up, don’t because it will ruin the suspense and intrigue held within the first arc of the Private series. It is clear that Kate Brian, the author, wrote this with the understanding that anyone picking it up is already familiar with the series, the character, and her story.

This story develops her character by beginning with one of the most pivotal moments in the Private series, and delving into the events and thought processes behind them. Going back before the events took place, Brian sets about developing the character—recounting who she is and allowing readers to study Ariana and her actions. There is so much going on, opening her psyche turning her into a fearful character, a sympathetic character. Almost.

There is a sort of admiration that goes into developing this character. Ariana believes that she is strong, when in fact it’s weakness, it’s fear driving her. Ariana is nothing more than a scared kid. As she comes face-to-face with the idea that she may lose her hopes and dreams, she loses touch with reality. It’s a steady and slow occurrence that readers are able to see unfold with clarity.

Brian dedicates much of her writing to developing the character, tying her to the development of the story. And as the story progresses and the character grows, readers won’t be able to put down the novel. Glued to the pages, the detail creates a teen drama for the audience to see within their minds, while at the same time leaving room for the imagination. Who needs television and the CW Network when you have gripping novels like this? Brian put intrigue, romance, and mystery in a boarding school setting, making it the perfect novel for young adult readers. But she doesn’t load it up with drama—no, it’s the perfect balance to create this story and make it grounded instead of outrageously ridiculous.

Ariana is by no means the heroine, being very much the villain of the Private series, but like most well-constructed villains, she’s alluring—a broken character with such a frail attachment to reality. Once the reader knows her future and has read about her past, there is no denying that the reader will sympathize with the character.


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