School of Deaths
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Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
Excellent Story with Solid Life Lessons Subtly Embedded
I would like to thank Christopher Mannino/MuseItUp Publishing & Book Publicity Services for a copy of this book to review. Though I received this book for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review.
Goodreads Teaser: "Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?
Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in an all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.
As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn't an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she's been brought there: the first female Death in a million years."
Suzie is a wonderful protagonist, especially for middle grade readers and older. Though put into challenging and dangerous situations she doesn't simply sit down and cry, instead she decides to handle each situation as best she can. This doesn't mean she hasn't got weak moments from time to time, but without those she certainly wouldn't read as authentically as she does. She starts out as pretty much an average middle class white American kid, complete with the two parents and older brother. But things have begun to go wrong for her before we even meet her. Even before the massive life change she goes through she shows some signs of being pretty levelheaded.
Once at the College of Deaths everything seems to go wrong. Being the first female in a million years is a tough spot to be in, especially for a thirteen year old girl. Though the first few faces she meets are kind enough, they all warn her of the hardships she'll be facing. The only female in an all male environment. There aren't any other women in the College at all. Not teachers, not regular staff, none. She's alone and adrift, and facing intense hostility. But between her own belief in herself and the support of the few friends she has, Suzie will muddle through her first year. And do most of it pretty well!
The various events that happen to occur surrounding Suzie, as well as her own emotional journey, make this an interesting and engaging read. Beneath and between the different situations that are encountered are solid pieces of advice and messages worth reading, absorbing, and learning. And Mannino does a great job of making those lessons and messages so much a part of the story that they aren't obvious or forced. Rather they simply are part of Suzie's experience, and as such pieces can be used or discarded by each reader as required.
Even the mysteries and various major events involve teachable moments. And they'll make for good group discussions, and hopefully lively conversations both in and out of the classroom; I feel that this could be a good reading list book in grade school. And it's nice to have an adventure where the lead character is a female who isn't a damsel in distress, but rather a smart, caring, strong girl that's more than capable of handling the problems and events put in front of her. And her empathy shows its own power and strength, without making her weak. Lots of good things to be discovered in Suzie's adventures throughout the College of Deaths and beyond. But you won't know nearly any of them until you read this book, so grab yourself a copy and get comfortable.