Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst
Lily Carter doesn't know there are two Princetons (as in Princeton University). Two Princetons that exist parallel to each other--one mystical, one normal. All it takes is one step through the FitzRandolph Gateway to get from one Princeton to the other. As long as you have "the key."
Lily and her mother travel with Lily's grandfather to his 50th class reunion. Upon her arrival she is given the option for early admission that is guaranteed without having to submit grades or SAT scores. All she must do is find the Ivy Key. First she must figure out what the Ivy Key is. With the help of the mysterious Tye and his tiger-striped hair and the blushing and beautiful Jake, Lily uncovers the meaning of the key and also her own magical background and the truth behind her father's death.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this book I couldn't help but compare the character of Lily and her story to Harry Potter and the HP book series. Like Harry, Lily escaped an attack by a magical creature only to lose her father who was killed saving her life from the Chained Dragon that attacked them. She was left with her mother and grandfather (both much nicer than Harry's aunt, uncle and cousin). Like Harry, instead of Lily and her mother living in the magical world that she was born in they hid out with Muggles . . . uh, humans, until Lily reached a certain age.
I also want to say how satisfying it is to read a stand-alone book that has a full conclusion to the story. I've been reading so many books that are a part of a series lately that I'm feeling a bit of cliffhanger-itis. As well as an overload of background story and non-essential, superfluous information. It was good to get a book where the background information and the action part of the story were woven together instead of taking up almost half of the first book in a series. I enjoyed the pace of the story and how it came to a completion.
That being said I didn't like that it left little time for developing the characters emotional connections. I could already tell that Lily had a strong connection to her mother and grandfather but the two guys--Tye and Jake--didn't get a fair shake in making a connection with Lily before all hell broke loose. They did show their strengths and how their relationship to Lily was beneficial but I didn't feel that swoon aspect (or emotional connection) that makes me want to root for one or the other. The relationships just sort of fell into place without any work or conflict. I think that this whole story took place in just a few days made any emotional connection a little unbelievable and hard to feel. (In her other book, Ice, the story took place on a long adventure and the two characters spent a lot of time together and you felt when and how their connection was growing.) And after a similar magical connection that I just read in Hourglass (I know, I know, that is part of a series but it still gave us somewhat of a conclusion at the end of the book so I'll count it--albeit reluctantly) I was a little disappointed that it was written the way it was. Overall, though, I have to say that it was a really good read and I would recommend it to those that enjoy a well-written, stand alone story about magical universes. The relationship issue that I had was well overshadowed by the exciting story and interesting concept.