This book was so good.
17 year old Taylor Markham attends a boarding school in Australia. She's been there ever since she was 11 years old and her drug addict mother abandoned her at a McDonalds. She is naturally a little messed up from the experience. The school is set up into houses and each house has a student leader that takes care of the younger students in the house. A teacher is assigned to each house, but does not live in it and has very little responsibility. The student leader shoulders most of the burden. Taylor is the unwilling house leader for her house, as well as the reluctant leader of an underground community. The students are all in a war with the Townies--kids who live in the town--and the Cadets--kids from a military school who come out for a few weeks each year. They fight over territory and make deals and war based on a purple book handed down to the students from 20 years ago. Taylor must deal with negotiating with the Townies and with the Cadets (the leader of which is someone Taylor has a mysterious history with) while coping with the absence of Hannah--a beloved volunteer at the school who picked Taylor up from the McDonalds and trying to understand her strange dreams about a boy in a tree.
There's so much in this book it's hard to summarize anything. It's nearly impossible to put down. Taylor begins her journey as untrusting and bitter and eventually learns to open herself up to other people. She finally accepts her past, learns the truth about her family, and is able to move on and look to the future. I cannot say how much I loved this book. It's not the fantasy I usually rave about... but Marchetta pulled me in to the world she created and I could not leave until I was done with the book. It's well-written, the characters are complex and interesting, and the story is riveting. I highly recommend it!