"It's an all-boys school. For politicians' sons and oil barons' sons and for"—Blue struggled to think of who else might be rich enough to send their kids to Aglionby—"the sons of mistresses living off hush money."
Neeve raised an eyebrow without looking up.
"No, really, they're awful," Blue said. (1.35-37)
Blue makes the Aglionby student population sound like something straight out of a soap opera. The sons of mistresses living off hush money? Come on. She obviously sees their excessive wealth as a negative trait.
Girlfriend, in fluttering white silk, looked a lot like Brianna, or Kayleigh, or whoever Declan's last girlfriend had been. They all had blond, shoulder-length hair and eyebrows that matched Declan's dark leather shoes. Declan, wearing the suit that his senior-year political internship required, looked thirty. (4.4)
Declan and his lady friend certainly look the part of a wealthy, high-class couple—even though they're still only in high school. Adam's description of them makes them sound like they're the Kennedys.
A small voice within Adam asked whether he would ever look this grand on the inside, or if it was something you had to be born into. Gansey was the way he was because he had lived with money when he was small, like a virtuoso placed at a piano bench as soon as he could sit. Adam, a latecomer, a usurper, still stumbled over his clumsy Henrietta accent and kept his change in a cereal box under his bed. (4.21)
No matter how much time Adam spends around his friends, he can't help but feel like he doesn't exactly belong in their world. They move through high society so easily, whereas he's still learning the ropes.
"Because I own this building," Gansey said. "It's a better investment than paying for dorm housing. You can't sell your dorm after you're done with school. And where did that money go? Nowhere."
Dick Gansey III hated to be told that he sounded like Dick Gansey II, but right then, he did. Both of them could trot out logic on a nice little leash, wearing a smart plaid jacket, when they wanted to. (4.38-39)
Apparently, Aglionby boys are rich enough so that high school kids can buy real estate like it's no big thing. Gansey doesn't want to end up like his father, but he's certainly got some of that same rich boy swagger.
"That is what I said! You think you can just pay me to talk to your friend? Clearly you pay most of your female companions by the hour and don't know how it works with the real world, but… but…" Blue remembered that she was working to a point, but not what that point was. Indignation had eliminated all higher functions and all that remained was the desire to slap him. The boy opened his mouth to protest, and her thought came back to her all in a rush. "Most girls, when they're interested in a guy, will sit with them for free." (6.48)
Being rich isn't exactly the only thing that you need when it comes to picking up a girl. Blue is so offended by Gansey's suggestion that he pay her for talking to Adam that she tears him a new one.
Adam sighed, as if he recognized her retreat. "He doesn't know. He's stupid about money."
"And you aren't?"
He just leveled her with a very steady look. It wasn't an expression that left room for folly. (8.22-24)
Adam's friends may be stupid and careless with their money, but Adam can't afford to think like them. He comes from a poor family, which means that he's hyperaware of what everything costs… even when someone else is footing the bill.
It was all in the papers the next day, the catastrophic crash of the Whelk family fortune. Both of Whelk's girlfriends left him. Well, the second one was technically Czerny's, so perhaps that didn't count. The whole thing was all very public. The Virginia playboy, heir to the Whelk fortune, suddenly evicted from his Aglionby dorm, relieved of his social life, freed from any hope of his Ivy League future, watching his car being loaded onto a truck and his room emptied of speakers and furniture. (10.15)
Talk about a fall from grace: Whelk's family loses their money in a blink of an eye, and he's pretty traumatized by the whole thing. This doesn't excuse the whole killing-his-best-friend-incident, but it does show just how tied to his wealth Whelk was.
At the sight of Gansey's Aglionby sweater, Adam's father had charged out, firing on all cylinders. For weeks after that, Ronan had called Gansey "the S.R.F.," where the S stood for Soft, the R stood for Rich, and the F stood for something else. (12.2)
Adam's family (like much of Henrietta) isn't exactly fond of the kind of boys who go to Aglionby. In fact, Adam's dad can be incensed into a rage when he sees one of Adam's friends.
Adam had once told Gansey, Rags to riches isn't a story anyone wants to hear until after it's done. But it was a story that was hard to finish when Adam had missed school yet again. There was no happy ending without passing grades. (14.39)
To Adam, he won't ever be anything to anyone until he can prove that he's made his success for himself. That's why he won't accept Gansey's help: He wants to become a rags-to-riches story all by himself.
Some people envied Ronan's money. Adam envied his time. To be as rich as Ronan was to be able to go to school and do nothing else, to have luxurious swaths of time in which to study and write papers and sleep. Adam wouldn't admit it to anyone, least of all Gansey, but he was tired. (20.26)
It's not just the fancy cars and the nice watches and the pretty girls that Adam envies in his friends. What he really wants is the simple stuff: not having to work three jobs or miss sleep in order to keep up with school, for example.