Everyone is afraid of something…
Madeleine Masterson is deathly afraid of bugs, especially spiders.
Theodore Bartholomew is petrified of dying.
Lulu Punchalower is scared of confined spaces.
Garrison Feldman is terrified of deep water.
With very few options left, the parents of these four twelve year-olds send them to the highly elusive and exclusive School of Fear to help them overcome their phobias. But when their peculiar teacher, Mrs. Wellington, and her unconventional teaching methods turn out to be more frightening than even their fears, the foursome realize that this just may be the scariest summer of their lives.
Reading Level: Age 8 and Up
School of Fear is a funny and quirky book by Gitty Daneshvari about the top-secret exclusive school which caters in helping a child conquer its fear. Not just any fear for that matter, the over-the-top serious type of phobia. Hence, the title School of Fear. The school uses unorthodox weird methods to make sure the students will be phobia-free by the end of their bout. It is about four 12-year-old kids with serious fears, so serious that it totally consumed their lives and their families. The parents tried everything to help their kids overcome their phobias but none work until they come across School of Fear. The four kids were sent off to the secret school for a summer program to get over their fears.
Madeleine Masterson, all the way from England, has a phobia of bugs, insects and most especially spiders. She is soft-spoken, polite and smart girl but goes paranoid like feeling a crawling sensation on her skin, just with the thought of going somewhere where bugs might be lurking. So, she goes to great lengths of protecting herself from those tiny creatures that scared the daylight out of her. She covered her face with a veil and got herself a belt full of repellants. She even has a personal bug exterminator who’s always ready for Madeleine’s whims. Because of her fears, she doesn’t have much of a social life since people think she’s weird and the parents of the kids her age can’t afford the expensive requirements Madeleine laid out if she’s to hang out with someone else’s house.
Another kid is Theodore Bartholomew who is terrified of dying or anyone he knows dying. He has a penchant for food, questionable fashion sense and is overly dramatic in every situation. He has an annoying habit of checking out every member of his family, texting and calling them every hour, to make sure they are safe, which drives them crazy, naturally. He also seems to know every possible way a person can die and hounds everyone about it.
Another student on the list is Lulu Punchalower, a claustrophobic girl with a tough personality. She is not very fond of closed enclosures and spaces, say elevators and bathrooms without windows. Her left eye twitches, lungs tighten, body convulse and even hyperventilating at the thought of being stuck in a confined space. So, she always carries a pair of cuffs to attached herself somewhere so no one can drag her anywhere she doesn’t want to go.
The last student for the term is the sporty and cool guy Garrison Feldman who is deathly scared of deep waters such as sea or lake. Living in Miami doesn’t help since he is expected by people especially his perfectionist father to excel in water sports. He perspires heavily in panic, which often leads to passing out whenever deep water is in sight.
Upon arriving at the School of Fear, which happens to be located on top of the mountain and surrounded by a forest, the four kids found themselves in the company of Schmidty. The nearly visually impaired school keeper and teacher’s assistant Schmidty. They were then introduced to their eccentric headmistress and teacher Mrs. Wellington and her pets. A crazy old lady who have an unhealthy obsession with beauty pageants as she used to join beauty contests back in her younger days and also with Casu Frazigu aka maggot cheese. So odd, right? But her unconventional and sometimes illegal ways are to be believed to work in helping people cope with their fears. Could she really? They might have doubt about it, but she is their only chance of having a normal life. And so, the summer program of the four kids commence, facing the tests and challenges their headmistress throw their way.
School of Fear is a fast read. It is funny at times and most certainly quirky. I totally enjoyed reading the perspective of the four kids, most especially Madeleine. I’d say she’s my favorite. She is smart and good-mannered and the one I look forward to know more about. Mrs. Wellington is also one that I enjoyed reading about. She sounds crazy most of the times and can be annoying and overbearing but I still find her funny and likeable. Her confidence with herself is just hilarious. I also really like how in each chapter, there’s illustration and kinds of phobia with its brief description. However, the plot gets very predictable. But, considering the target readers, I really don’t mind. There’s also a lot of cringe-worthy situation, so brace yourself. And also, it bummed me how much Theo got exposures than the others. His drama is just too much for my liking, no matter how young he is. The bantering between him and Lulu can be tiring as I flip the pages. I really hope they tone it down a bit on the next book as School of Fear is part of a trilogy. It is my first Gitty Daneshvari and I won’t mind reading more. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the second installment of this series.
If you don’t mind reading a fun, quirky middle-grade book, give this one a try. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
(*Photos and synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)
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