Published by: Atom
Release date: 1st January 2012
Series: Night School #1
I got it from: Library
Summary (from cjdaugherty.com):
Allie Sheridan’s world is falling apart. Her brother’s run away from home. Her parents ignore her. And she’s just been arrested.
This time her parents have had enough. They cut her off from her
friends and send her away to boarding school, far from her London
But at Cimmeria Academy, Allie is soon caught up in the strange activities of a secret group of elite students.
When she’s attacked late one night the incident sets off a chain of
increasingly violent events. As the school begins to seem like a very
dangerous place, she finds out that nothing at Cimmeria is what it seems
And that she is not who she thought she was.
Night School was a real breath of fresh air. Just to read a book that's based in a school, that's British! The wonderful familiarity of the language and terminology, and just the way the kids act - I've gotten so used to reading US-based books that I didn't realise how different they are until I read a Brit book again. There's an entirely different feel to it, made up of all the little ways in which life, customs, language and sense of humour differ between the two countries.
Allie is an interesting character. She's suffered tragedy in her life and she's gone off the rails a bit because of it. When she arrives at Cimmeria, she's resentful and wayward, but she's not a bad girl at heart - she just needs the right kind of treatment. Cimmeria is a strange place - an elite boarding school full of the children of rich and powerful families. Allie doesn't fit in, and some of the students make sure she knows it. We're given all the expected aspects of boarding school life, but Cimmeria has its secrets too. The rules are not just rules, they're Rules. As Allie gets settled in we start to see that things are not quite normal at this school. There's no contact with the outside world, for starters - no technology at all in fact. No mobile phones, no internet, no TV. Instead students study and play chess by the light of a candelabra.
At least Cimmeria is a co-ed school, and the boys make up for some of the weirdness. There's the sexy French Silvain, whose interest in Allie seems unbelievable at first and causes even more trouble for her with the popular girls. But then there's Carter West, who seems to do everything he can to alienate and infuriate Allie, while at the same time trying to warn her that Silvain is not all he seems. Is he jealous or does he just not want her to be happy? Or is there something else going on?
It's all very mysterious, and that's really what's at the heart of the book - a good mystery. It really is a good one too - Daugherty keeps us guessing right up until the end. I really didn't know what to expect. There are hints at possible paranormal elements and secret society-style connections, but as long as Allie is in the dark, we are too, and it isn't until everything goes down at the end that things start to be revealed.
Daugherty's settings and characters are well-written. The few friends that Allie makes help to keep the story ticking along well, and the enemies she makes add more intrigue. The fact that some characters are more like frenemies, not always easy to work out, makes it more realistic. Cimmeria itself, with its spooky gothic mansion setting makes for a slightly cliched but interesting location. There's a good balance between description and action, romance and friendship. It's a really enjoyable read and I can't wait to get the next installment!