Genre: Children's Fiction, Adventure
Page Count: 339
Pub. Date: September 1, 2009
My Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Amazon.com: 3.5 stars
Goodreads: 3.20 (Average)
Recommended For: Younger readers, Fans of quirky characters, Fans of books like The Mysterious Benedict Society
Inside Cover Blurb:
Everyone is afraid of something...
Madeleine Masterson is deathly afraid of bugs, especially spiders.
Theodore Bartholomew is petrified of dying.
Lulu Punchalower is scared of confined spaces.
Garrison Feldman is terrified of deep water.
Which is why this may be the scariest summer of their lives. Worse than detention or summer school. Even worse than the orthodontist. The foursome must face their phobias at the exclusive and elusive School of Fears. The school is unusual, to say the least. But "terrifying" would be a more accurate description.
The curriculum is simple: Conquer your fears in six weeks or find out just how frightening failing can be.
If I were to judge a book by its cover, I'd say that this book looks awesome! I love the illustrations on the front and those that are featured at the beginning of every chapter. (Reminded me of The Mysterious Benedict Society in that instance)
Aside of the overall look, the thing I liked most about the novel was the dialogue. Very fun and witty, I laughed out loud more than once. I enjoyed the interaction between the four kids and how you see them grow and develop as the story progresses. If anything, the lovely writing kept my attention the whole way through.
But what is keeping this book below 5 (even 4) star status, in my opinion, is the ending and the overabundance of "personality".
The buildup for the ending was okay (albeit repetitive) but when push came to shove, all the entertainment was jam packed in the last 50 or so pages. And not only was the end predictable (the twist became apparent in the middle of the book) but it was also incredibly rushed, only giving us enough detail to get by. It almost seemed like chunks of it were taken out just to make it fit under 350 pages, which is unfortunate. It gave it an incomplete feel and I felt there was much that could have been elaborated on.
And when you get a story that thrives on the quirkiness of its characters and plot line, there is the off chance that you over-do the amount of quirk in the story. And School of Fear just happened to be in that category. While I appreciated the unique voice each character had, toward the middle and the end of the story, it just became a bit too much. The four kids were threatening to cross that line from quirky into annoying more than once (although, I think Theo did cross it multiple times) and Mrs. Wellington, the eccentric instructor, spent her time across that line throughout the book.
Speaking of the characters, another thing that made me somewhat detached towards the story was how hard it was identify with any of them. I found myself on the side of indifference rather than actually being involved in their lives and the journey they were on.
Lastly, the cover uses words such as "fear", "terrifying", "worse than ____" and I do feel like those are misleading. This book is far from scary, relying more on insinuating "scary" adventure instead of experiencing it.
I don't mean to come off so negative because, for the most part though, I did enjoy it. It's a cute book, even with the sometimes over-the-top characters. Gitty's writing style is simple yet enjoyable and the humor, for the most part, is really quite funny. I didn't exactly begin the book with any expectations and I think that helped my take on it. Overall consensus, it's just a fun, light read.
The ending did hint at a continuation of the series, but I haven't heard if there will be a book 2 in the near future or not.