I, Claudia is a fascinating study in teenage politics gone wild in a setting where the student government at an elite prep school has practically unlimited power. The book covers three years of said government, with vastly different rulers over the years. It’s not a surprise that Claudia herself gets involve in governing, but the way things go isn’t predictable and is very interesting.
In the beginning of the book, Claudia is about to start her freshman year at Imperial Day Academy, where her sister, Maisie, will be a junior. She spends some time with her sister and her friends and ends up visiting a fortune teller that freaks her out by reading her surprisingly well. Claudia describes herself as ugly. She also talks about her limp, which comes from one leg being shorter than the other. She believes she’s not much of a catch, but she seems okay with that. She thinks,
… I was glad to be thought bookish and eccentric, but ultimately harmless. I was grateful for my unremarkable ness, for my parents’ indifference to me, that my classmates found me boring or strange.
Nothing I did mattered.
And because of that, I was free.
She’s free to do what she wants, and one notable thing she does is study history. The novel is full of her insights into current situations with reflections on past ones, which I really enjoyed (even if I didn’t always know the events she was referring to, it was still really cool).
After a year at the school (when a lot of interesting things happen involving the Honor Council that Maisie’s on, where we see how they run the school and how irrelevant adults are there), Maisie convinces Claudia to run for student senate for her sophomore year. She’s shocked when she wins. She and a boy named Hector are the two sophomore representatives. Claudia sort of accidentally brings down the entire senate and ends up as vice president. Everything steps up from there and eventually we get to the watershed point.
All of this is framed in a series of therapy visits where Claudia (as a self-described “teenager in crisis”) is explaining what happened to her up to this point. We know something big must have gone down by the end of the book since she’s in therapy, but we don't know exactly what that is.
This unusual book is worth your time if you appreciate genuine novelty and a good story. Claudia’s a great character who finds something in herself she never expected to be there.