WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
Type: Contemporary, Fear, School
Basic Plot: Four children have fears that are so great that they are unable to live happy lives without using obsessive measures to prevent their fears. The desperate parents send these kids all to the School of Fear, hoping that the summer will end with the children being brave.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: The plot was very original. It was comparable to A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Name of This Book is Secret in creativity of plot. All of the characters are as unique. The story also had a surprise ending that was not very obvious, though an adult or teenager might predict. Overall the plot was well done.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: The writing style was descriptive but not extravagant. You know the characters and scenery very well, but there is no long-windedness about it. There is also a lot of humor done in a natural way, not sounding forced or awkward. The setup of the book was chronological except for at the beginning where there was a chapter devoted to each person.
Graphics: 2/5 Below Average: The only negative thing about the book quality wise was the graphics. They looked homemade and a bit unprofessional. They were not horrible drawings, but they did look like they were drawn by an amateur.
Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The moral to not let your fears control you in an outrageous and extreme way, because if they do you will not be able to enjoy yourself. The Bible does say we should not be afraid as we have God to trust in. Though the latter idea is not emphasized in the books, this can be a great thing to talk to with your children as they read it.
It should be mentioned that the children in this book are sometimes disrespectful to authority, but the authority is not shown to be stupid. In fact at the end the children admit that though they thought their teacher was insane she actually had helped them and wasn’t that bad. Because the adults were not shown in an either stupid or evil light, this book does not qualify as a “Your Parents Are Dumb and Your Neighbor’s Evil” book. (See Dangerous Ideas for explanation.)
Overall: 3½5 Above Average: The book was a very good children’s book and I recommend it. The only thing that was disappointing was the graphics, but they were not something that would ruin the whole book. It is good for either gender, and I believe children nine or ten and older would like it best.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 0/5 None
Violence: 1/5 A Lot of Mentioned Violence: It mentions a man plucking out all of his son’s eyebrow hair. A boy throughout imagines many possible ways people he knows can die. It mentions a woman getting kicked by a horse. A boy wonders if a lady killed horses and people. She says she hasn’t. A girl is provoked to the point of being willing to hit a boy, though she doesn’t. A woman talks about throwing chairs at people, though it never shows her doing it. A boy thinks a bee stung him. A woman describes how a girl will be injured if she jumps out the window. A girl tells a boy she will give him a black eye when she is annoyed. She doesn’t.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1/5 One or Two Light Utterances and Crude Speech: A form of God’s name is taken in vain once and “bull” and “freaking are each used once. It mentions an angry man refusing to speak because he will swear if he does.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Slightly Disturbing Content: A boy has a fear of dieing and his obsession can be slightly morbid. He also goes through emotional distraught after his grandma dies, wanting to save all of her things in her room so they won’t forget her. A girl wonders what body parts she would trade if she could keep her bug repellant. It is said how some men’s bones were found in a forest, and some ways they could have died are mentioned. A woman is assumed dead. There is the stuffed head of a dog found that scares the children.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestive: A boy compares School of Fear to a cult. A boy’s parents try to reassure him about dieing by telling him many religious ideas about death, though they are not mentioned. His only response is that it is a bit odd that there are so many options about life after death. A boy claims at two different points to have psychic powers in an attempt to change the situation. He doesn’t have any. It mentions parents trying a hypnotist to chase away their child’s fear. Phasmophobia (the fear of ghost) is mentioned. The Cretaceous period is mentioned. A lady refers to her students once as “disciples.” A girl calls something “blasphemy” when it really isn’t blasphemous.
Magic: ½/5 Slightly Mentioned: A girl wonders if she committed witchcraft when she hasn’t.
Others: A man is obsessed with gambling and horse betting. A casino is mentioned once (but in the light you shouldn’t go to one). “Rock concert” is used for descriptive purposes. It is mentioned a man has long hair, but it is not shown in any pictures and is mentioned to be worn in a comb over style through most of the book.
Overall: 1½/5 Slightly Suggestive Material: The book was pretty clean. Most things are lightly suggested or are mentioned in passing, though not shown or do not happen. I recommend this book in moral content to children nine or ten and older.