Thursday, July 23, 2009

REVIEW: School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer

For some reason, I always get a kick out of reading books where a character shares my name. I have no idea why - it's one of my weird quirks.

So I was immediately drawn in to the story of Angela Cardenas, a "bad girl" sentenced to Hidden Oaks - a remote boarding school that serves as the last chance for girls that their parents deem dangerous.

The first several chapters are engaging and intriguing, as we watch just how far this school will go to try to control these dangerous girls - from locking them in their rooms and observing them with security cameras, to strange mind games that pit the girls against each other.

There are lots of twists and turns in this book - too many perhaps. Girls disappearing, the mysterious purple thread vs. gold thread standings, ominous warnings from teachers, and a lone teenage guy in a school filled with lonely girls. There's a lot to keep track of, which means that a lot of characters - especially the evil teachers - are never fully fleshed out.

Plus the book has the annoying stylistic quirks of a pulp detective novel. Almost every chapter ends with a cheesey, "ominous" statement, along the lines of "Little did I know, there wouldn't be a next meeting" or "But she wasn't everything she said she was." If they had been occasional additions they would have been fun, but it was a stylistic quirk that was done to death.

And while I don't want to spoil anything, I have to say that the ending of this was completely unsatisfying. There's an exciting plateau...and then an epilogue that skips through several arduous months and just has some telling-not-showing dialogue that says "We did this, and it was hard, and we did that, and THAT was hard, but now we're here!" Everything ties up in too neat of a bow with a real let down in the excitement factor.

I think Schrefer was perhaps going for an old school film noir (book noir?) feeling for this book - a scary, secluded school; rumors of deaths and disasters; evil teachers and absent parents - but wasn't quite committed enough to really pull it off. There were lots of enjoyable elements, but enough uneven parts to make it fall short.
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