Julianna Helms's Reviews > Scary School

Scary School by Derek The Ghost
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Actual review: Original is here on my blog. I read this book with my brother and it's quite awesome. (Note: due to copy-and-paste, formatting and links have been lost.)

I'm a scaredy cat.

It's an universal fact, really. I get scared outta my wits for the simplest things. But over the years, I've come to discern that there are two types of scary:

1) The OH I AM GOING TO SCARE YOU ALRIGHT type: This one's so common, its ratio to Type 2 is like 99:1. It's the horror movie you're psyched to see and then scared to death of. It's the jokes your friends whisper and then you have nightmares about. (Really, why would you have friends who do that, anyway?) It's the scary thing that scares you in a memorable way, alright...

A terrifying, never-again-am-I-going-back-to-this type of scary.

That is not Scary School.

2) The OH, THAT WAS SCARY BUT SO FUN! AGAIN! type: This is the entertaining type of scary that kids love on Halloween. It's scary but you expect it, and it's got a plate of humor as a side dish and fun as your drink. It's scary but it's the type of scary that makes you laugh and not make you have a heart attack rivaling a tornado.

That is Scary School.

My brother (AKA The Kid) and I read this book together. He's exactly in the age range that the story is aimed for, so I figured it'd be a good idea. I remember the first day we started reading it:

Me: Hey, kiddo, we're gonna read 'til page 70 today, 'k?
The Kid: Page SEVENTY? Can't we reach that tomorrow?
Me: *raises eyebrows*
The Kid: *groans* FIIIIIINEEEE.

~30 minutes later~

Me: Hey, Kid, we're on page 100. You wanna stop?
The Kid: SHHH! I'M TRYING TO READ HERE!
Me: *secretly smiles*


As you can tell, Scary School is a clear success with characters echoing the loves of kids and a plot that's both challenging and hilariously awkward. It's strange, grotesque, and so very in character. It's like Edgar Allen Poe for kids, minus the blood and deaths--just kidding. There's plenty of deaths in this book.

Which... brings up an interesting point.

Now, this wasn't an issue for me or my brother, and you know those Goosebumps stories (totally Scary Type 1!) utilize this like I eat rice, but there are a lot of deaths in this book. Not violent, gory, brutal deaths like in The Hunger Games but deaths that are "common." At Scary School, death is not a distant ponder: it's an inevitability. Derek addresses the deaths as if they are no big deal (I mean, Nurse Hairymoles can bring you back from the dead--literally--so what's there to worry about?), but some parents may see this as an indirect way to emphasize the nonchalance of death. Or teach kids about how you should let a teacher turn your world into an autocracy. (Just kidding, Russia!) (...maybe...) I encourage parents to let their children enjoy this mock-up of a perfectly balanced novel between hilarity and genuine characterizations.

Basically, if you didn't get the memo: Scary School is perfect for scaredy cats, non-scaredy cats, and all of the cats in between.
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