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Night School (Night School 1)
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Cimmeria Academy has been more than a school for Allie, it's been a safe haven. But no longer. The school - her friends, her teachers - are under attack. A nefarious group, a group that Allie and her mysterious family might have more to do with than she could've ever realized, is trying to destroy everything Cimmeria stands for. And throughout it all, someone they eat with, sleep with, train with, is betraying them. There's a spy in Night School. As the paranoia grows and the fights begin, it's not the enemies outside they have to worry about. They're hurting themselves.
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The Fault in Our Stars
Title: Night School
Series Title: Night School
ISBN 10: 1907411216
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN 13: 9781907411212
Series Part / Volume Number: 1
Publication Date: 05/01/2012
Night School is the first novel from former crime reporter CJ Daugherty, who, according to her bio, saw her first dead body at the age of 22. On first glance this looks like yet another entry into the paranormal genre that has formed the backbone of young adult fiction for several years. And yet this was actually something quite new to me as a reader: a book that looks and feels paranormal, but isn't - instead this is a well-crafted, lively and sassy psychological thriller for the YA audience.
The story concerns a troubled teen called Allie Sheridan, who is sent to boarding school by her parents after she's arrested for vandalising the headmaster's office. However, there's something very odd about Cimmeria Academy, the institution that everybody expects to reform her. They don't allow phones or internet, and the harsh rules include sinister allusions to severe punishment for any violation of its peculiar bylaws and customs. Unexpectedly, however, Allie soon finds that she loves it there, and forms deep attachments to her fellow students - particularly Carter, the brooding love interest; Jo, her bad-girl best friend; and Sylvain, a smouldering French student who may have a somewhat darker interest in her than it first appears.
In the first third or so of the book we get to know this strange, enticing world, and the beautifully-drawn characters who populate it. Daugherty has a great skill for sharp and witty dialogue. ("We can't leave the door open" Allie says during a scene in a chapel. "What if a fox gets in and eats Jesus?") At the same time, the writer seems to respect the reader enough to make the teenage characters actually sound like teenagers, albeit interesting and engaging ones - complete with awkward flirting, goofy exchanges and the occasional casual swearword.
However, Daugherty also has a deliciously vicious streak to her storytelling, which drops murder, betrayal and mistrust into the mix like rivulets of blood on a white prom dress. Nowhere is this more effective than on the occasions where the mood shifts unsettlingly - a surprisingly racy skinny dipping scene, for instance, suddenly becomes something more dangerous, and as for the school's opulent summer ball... Well, let's just say that metaphor about the prom dress is pretty well chosen.
All in all, Night School is an excellent and thrilling story of murder, conspiracy and teen romance. It's also a very fast read, and after the book's violent tipping point about half way through, it really rockets along towards the conclusion. This appears to be the first in a series, so don't expect every loose end to be tied up at the end - but according to the website of the publisher, Atom (who also publish Stephanie Myers' books in the UK), the sequel will be along next year.
Read this book now. Because it's good to be in at the beginning, when something you just know is going to be big comes along.
C. J. Daugherty was 22 when she saw her first dead body. Although she left the world of crime reporting to edit travel books instead, she never lost her fascination with what it is that drives some people to do awful things. And about the kinds of people who try to stop them. Night School is the product of that fascination.
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