Review: School of the Dead by Avi

school of the dead by avi

From Newbery Medalist Avi comes the spine-tingling story of Tony Gilbert, who must solve a mystery surrounding the ghost of his uncle Charlie.

For most of Tony Gilbert’s life, he always thought of his uncle as “Weird Uncle Charlie.” That is, until Uncle Charlie moves in with Tony and his family. He’s still odd, of course—talking about spirits and other supernatural stuff—but Uncle Charlie and Tony become fast friends. Between eating ice cream and going to the movies, Tony is having more fun with Uncle Charlie than he ever could have imagined.

So when Uncle Charlie dies suddenly, Tony is devastated. So sad, in fact, he starts seeing Uncle Charlie everywhere! Tony recently transferred to the Penda School, where Uncle Charlie went as a kid. The school is eerie enough on its own without his uncle’s ghost making it worse. On top of which, rumors have been circulating about a student who went missing shortly before Tony arrived. Could that and Uncle Charlie’s ghost be related?

Full of twists and turns that get spookier by the chapter, School of the Dead is a fast-paced mystery that Avi’s fans will devour!

Description taken from Goodreads.


I’ve never been a huge fan of Avi, but the premise of School of the Dead won me over. I was curious to see what the story would be like, and I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected. However, as others have correctly noted, the twist at the end is a bit easy to guess by the middle of the novel. I’m sure mature middle-grade readers will be able to guess it fairly easily, but I still had a lot of fun with the story, so I don’t think it’ll be a major turn-off.

Even though I enjoyed the plot and the characters, two things wavered for me throughout the story. The first is the fact that the book isn’t scary. I don’t think it would be scary for anyone. It does the ghost cliché, it works within its premise, but it’s nothing shocking or wholly original.

The second is the writing. Avi’s writing doesn’t give me the voice of a middle-grader. Tony felt much older than his age much of the time. Avi’s writing tends to favor the same kind of cool detachment as Kate DiCamillo’s work. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know how the target audience will receive it. If you’re looking for whimsical and action-packed, this isn’t the book for you.

It’s lack of originality and it’s writing made me question how easily its target audience will fall in love with it, but I know a few kids who loved books like Anya’s Ghost that could appreciate a story like this. The rest of the book was pretty solid, and I’ll be recommending it. 3 stars.

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