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Requires an eclectic taste
I'll say it outright: I like these books. And not as a Guilty Pleasure. The issue of contention, I feel, lies with the fact that the series melds two very different genres. With Private, the snobby-rich-kid drama serves as the A-plot, while the killers-and-psychos drama functions as the B-plot; with Privilege, it's reversed. But they both carry the dynamic of wrapping one into the other, making for something that is not inherently bad, but is hard to appreciate without a widely varied taste.

I personally prefer Privilege to Private. While the latter focuses more on the mechanisms of the sorority-in-all-but-name, the former takes a previously established character, one who disappeared from the series after being arrested for murder, and humanizes her in an extremely realistic and sympathetic fashion without attempting to mask the fact that she makes some really bad decisions. In addition, she has to work at least twice as hard for her success as Reed does for hers, and her problems are direct results of her own flaws and actions, while the conflict in Private can sometimes feel more like Diabolus Ex Machina than anything else.

While I acknowledge that these books have their flaws, I also maintain that to the right audience, they are a highly engaging read. Many of the dissent comes from people who like the more mature aspects and are turned off by all the schoolgirl catfight stuff, while many of the people who enjoy the latter are too close to the cheering-fangirl type to fully take in the former (if the comments on the author's blog are indeed representative of a majority). But while it may be difficult to find people with such a wide range of interests, I will assert that this series (or at the very least, the Spin Off) is far more than just "OMG these books r even better then twilight!!!!!"
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