Over 400 pages and I read them all lickety-split. C.J. Daugherty’s YA novel Night School is so much fun! Even when I discovered – about half way in – that the book is the first in a series (and you know how I feel about series), even then…I had to keep reading. (I don’t really have anything personal against series. It’s just that it’s such a commitment of reading time and that’s in short supply in my reading world. Still, as soon as I finished the book, I had to go online to see whether the sequel(s) was out. Um. There are four more books, people!)
Sixteen-year-old Allie Sheridan is always in trouble these days. She used to be a good kid, but then her older brother, Christopher, disappeared under extremely mysterious circumstances, and Allie’s been hanging with losers, defacing school property and just generally getting into trouble ever since. Finally her parents can’t take it anymore and decide to send her to Cimmeria Academy, an elite private school in the middle of the English countryside.
There – cut off from the outside world (no technology allowed) – she meets Isabelle, the school’s headmistress, and a cast of intriguing teenagers, among them Sylvain, gorgeous and French; Katie, the snotty rich girl; down-to-earth, Jo and Carter West, he of the endless brown eyes and bad reputation. They are all staying on at Cimmeria for the summer term. (School breaks up about mid-July in England and then goes back after Labour Day, early September…so about a six week break.)
Allie soon falls into the school’s rhythms and discovers that she kind of likes it at Cimmeria. Jo is nice and Sylvain is paying special attention to her. The food is great and the school is beautiful. What’s not to like?
Well, first of all there’s ‘Night School’, but like ‘fight club’ – you’re not supposed to talk about it.
Students in certain advanced areas of study take part in Night School to prepare them for life after Cimmeria so you will sometimes hear them working late in the evening. Only very few select students are offered this opportunity; if you are not among them, you must not attempt to interfere with or observe Night School, and the fourth floor of the class-room wing is off limits.
Then there’s the woods though, according to Jo, “we don’t actually do much in the woods, and they kind of discourage it because of, I dunno, health and safety or something.” Then there’s Carter’s cryptic warning: “You haven’t been at Cimmeria long enough to understand how things are here. So be careful, okay? Things are not what they seem. People aren’t always who they seem to be.”
And I still had 200 pages to go!
There are creepy moments aplenty in Night School. Intrigue galore. And even if the payoff isn’t quite there, there’s more than enough to keep readers turning the pages. I would definitely be interested in reading the next book in the series, Legacy, to see how Allie makes out.
My only other niggle is that the characters don’t sound British. The occasional ‘blimey’ thrown into their dialogue does not a British accent make. They sounded decidedly American to me, which stands to reason: Daugherty is from New Orleans, though she now lives in England. That’s a small thing, though, and in no way undermined my overall reading experience.
Fun, fun, fun!