a review by Evie Kendal
Night School is a young adult fiction set in the mysterious Cimmeria Academy, hidden somewhere in the English countryside. At the beginning of the novel, protagonist Allie Sheridan is transferred to the school after committing a spate of criminal activities. Her disruptive behaviour is believed to stem from emotional trauma following her brother’s disappearance, and her parents send her away to Cimmeria in order to reform. However, the other students are surprised when Allie is admitted to the exclusive school, whose pupils are usually the children of wealthy and influential parents. It isn’t long before Allie too starts to wonder why she is at Cimmeria, and more importantly, what goes on in the clandestine “night school” that is so important students face serious repercussions if they ever disclose any details to outsiders like herself.
It is difficult to say much about Night School for two reasons: the first is that discussing any details occurring after page 220 would be rather spoilerific, and the second, that nothing very interesting happens in the first 220 pages! It is for the most part just another teen school drama, fairly harmless (with the exception of a rather casual treatment of date rape), but also quite repetitive for those who have read a lot within the genre. Personally I was also disappointed at the lack of vampires, as the title implied to me that there would be some! However, for those readers who are sick of the prevalent paranormal persuasion of current young adult fiction, this fact may serve as an enticement.
The thing I noticed most at the beginning of the novel was how similar it was in style to Lauren Kate’s Fallen. Allie is sent to a distant school with harsh rules and creepy gothic architecture, is cut off from all 21st century technology, and forbidden contact with her former friends and family as a punishment for criminal behaviour – just like Luce in Fallen. She suddenly comes across a brooding male student, Carter West, who seems strangely familiar but who instantly treats her with disdain – just like Luce when she meets Daniel. Allie then becomes involved with the flirtatious Sylvain, a devastatingly attractive student who all the other female students are drooling over but who Carter warns her is not who he seems – just like Daniel warns Luce that the gorgeous Cam isn’t who he says he is. Allie then manages to get herself detention, which involves getting up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and doing manual labour in the cemetery – the exact same punishment Luce receives in her first detention at Swords and Cross Reform School. The relationships between Carter and Sylvain and Daniel and Cam are also very similar, with both pairs having different agendas toward their respective female protagonists. However, while Fallen leaves many questions unanswered to entice the reader to pick up the next instalment – Night School somehow manages to leave all questions unanswered in a way so frustrating one may feel compelled to ignore any sequels purely from spite. Why is Allie at Cimmeria? Who are her parents really? Where did her brother disappear? Why is the evil Nathaniel attacking the school? What happens in night school? After 451 pages I still can’t answer a single one of these questions!
Stylistically, although there are a few addictive chapters in Night School that drive the narrative forward, a lot of the events seem quite contrived and the scenes describing them are quite choppy. There are murders, house fires, animal attacks and political machinations that are all reported in a rather brush-stroke fashion, which lead the way for Allie and Carter to pursue several late night rendezvous and private investigations that are intended to hype up the romantic tension between them. A big conspiracy is promised that doesn’t end up being too revolutionary, but is still worth reading through to the end if you’ve already invested enough time and energy to make it at least half way through the novel. Overall, I recommend Night School as a stop-gap measure for reading between the release dates of whatever other young adult series you may be addicted to.