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Dickensen Academy isn’t a typical boarding school. The faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret within their fine arts program. When Autumn Mattison receives an invitation to attend the high school, she yearns to escape her overbearing father yet remains reluctant to leave her mother and brother. Her doubts fade away when a vivid dream convinces her she belongs there.
Away from home, Autumn discovers a unique school environment that awakens her creative potential, and her new friends become like a second family. However, as she uncovers more about the dark side of the school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is truly where she belongs.
When tragedy strikes, Autumn must learn to believe in her own power and stand up to her greatest fear or risk having her memories destroyed to protect the school’s secrets. Caught between secrets and dreams, can she find her true self?
I thoroughly enjoyed Christine Grabowski’s “DickensenAcademy” and recommend it to everyone who enjoys Young Adult novels that have a sci-fi, fantasy, or paranormal component. Being retired, I am obviously not part of the target group for this book. But I love young adult novels that have well developed characters that I can relate to, and a book which can take me back in time to the excitement and fears of my teenage years. This book did that for me. I think everyone will love the main character, Autumn—a seemingly typical teenage girl trying to find her own identity. As just an average student, Autumn was surprised at her selection to the Dickensen Academy--an elite high school in Washington State noted for its emphasis on academics. Dickensen boards its students at a remote campus located in the mountains of Washington State; while this was a bit concerning to Autumn’s parents, they thought the fewer distractions there would create a better learning environment. But, as Autumn was to soon learn, that was not the real reason for the seclusion.
Shortly after settling in at Dickensen for her freshman year, Autumn and her classmates started getting clues there was a big secret about Dickenson that none of the freshmen knew about. Everyone was puzzled about what was really going on, and their anxiety was fueled by having no cell phone service and poor internet capability. Soon the school president confirmed their suspicion when he told the freshmen about the primary reason they were selected to attend Dickensen. He explained that the preadmission testing showed each selected student had the capability to learn a powerful skill that was thought to be impossible by the outside world, and each student would learn to develop this skill during their 4 years at Dickensen. He stressed the vital importance of keeping this skill a secret.
Teaching the students how to perform this unique skill forms the basis of this book. Grabowski wove a wonderful, gripping, and suspenseful story around Autumn and her classmates learning to cope with the nature of the skill and to learn the basic techniques needed to perform it. But Autumn and her friends wondered how Dickensen could keep its mission a secret, and what would happen to persons using the skill for evil purposes. Autumn also had some major obstacles rear up that looked like they would force her to leave Dickensen. How she tries to overcome the setbacks leads to an emotional and very fitting conclusion.
I want to make two other points that might interest potential readers. First, upon finishing this book I clearly thought sequels would be in order. Autumn was only in her first year at Dickensen and surely many other exciting events could unfold with her new skill as she finishes up her schooling there or somewhere else…and also after she graduates. I really hope Christine has sequels in her plan as I am anxious to read them! Second, the Dickensen story seems to be a great fit for the silver screen—the secret, how to keep it hidden, how to keep it from being abused, and the possibility of sequels could be of great interest to producers.
Refreshing, Iinspiring and Thought Provoking
Dickensen Academy is one of the most refreshing, inspiring and thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time. I read it with my teenage daughters, and it prompted the most inquisitive and deep conversations between us. We discussed new ways of thinking, paradigm shifts and possibilities. This book evokes the feeling of sitting in your favorite chair, sipping a cup of hot tea with your favorite blanket wrapped around you and falling in love with Life all over again. It allowed me to dream like a child again. I kept picturing myself in the book with the characters thinking, “Wow, what an Incredible concept the author came up with. Just incredible.” This should be made into a movie. Not since Harry Potter have I been swept away in a fantasy novel with such profound concepts, details and limitless possibilities. Truly a Gem. ~ Mother of Three Teenagers
Event as an adult, I do periodically pick up young adult novels to relive the magic and excitement of reading I remember as a budding teenager. Dickensen Academy is an intriguing story about a teenage girl that chooses to attend an exclusive high school away from home. Autumn is a typical teenager who soon learns there is more to the academy she attends than meets the eye. The way Grabowski describes Autumn's thought processes as she questions the things surrounding her in her life allows you to fall right in step with her. What is the mysterious secret that is kept behind the walls of the boarding school she attends? How will she be able to face family and friends based on the choices she makes? Who can she trust? What if she has to leave behind everything and everyone she has just accepted into her life?
I enjoyed the book immensely and cannot wait for more as the story is set up to be followed by more about Autumn, her relationships and the mysterious secrets surrounding Dickensian Academy. -MW