TCK Publishing gave me this book in exchange for an honest review. Well, honestly, I would give this book 3 stars. It’s not a bad book; the author does a lot of things really well. Yet there were somethings that could be improved.
Peter Green and the Unliving Academy
By Angelina Allsop
Peter wakes up at a train station wearing pajamas and a tie. He has no memory other than his name is Peter. He quickly learns that he’s dead and this is the Afterlife. He is directed to his school. It’s like a boarding school. He makes new friends quickly. He also remembers a tiny snippet of his old life. There is a girl, and she’s in danger. It’s up to him to save her. But he doesn’t know how since he’s dead and she’s alive.
(This is what grabbed my attention causing me to request this book for review. I love a good thriller mystery.)
This was a weakness in this book. Sometimes the characters reactions seemed incongruous. At one point something happened and I expected the character to be appalled, but he laughed his head off. I was quite confused. I have taught middle school (6-8th grade) for almost 20 years. I know how kids of this age typically behave. I know how they think. Sometimes I find that authors that haven’t spent much time around kids this age miss the mark in judging how they behave. Often they write a 12 year old but the character acts more like a 9 year old. There is a huge difference in behavior, interests, and reactions between these ages. They are interested in different things. They have a different sense of humor. The character reactions in this story missed the mark several times and kicked me out of the story.
This book would benefit from a good edit. Early in the book there was a scene where he was invited to an elite secret club. They defended the school from werewolves. He turned down their offer to join the club. The only thing of value in this chapter was
- This scene added excitement. (Drawback- I wish he had joined this club to get more action) He later joined a different secret club. I kept expecting this club to play a role in the later half of the book.
- The scene introduced a character that didn’t like him. This character wasn’t really an antagonist, just a bump in the plot.
- It let us know that a professor was a werewolf. This had no bearing on the remainder of the story.
I kept waiting for this rather large scene to come up again but it never did. It could have been replaced with a few lines saying that professor was a werewolf because the professor being a werewolf had no bearing on the story arc. It was just world building and didn’t advance the plot.
This was a strength of this book. The author has a talent for creative, unique world building. I have been a fantasy reader for decades and I’ve heard it all it seems. This story exists in a delightful world. Sure professor werewolves have been done before but what about shadow walking? Porting to the living world? Ever had to focus you attention to keep wearing a school uniform instead of reverting to your death outfit? And a million other interesting details! I had a good idea of how the world worked and was entertained by it because of the novelty. The worldbuilding focused on the school culture and hinted at the world outside the unliving school. This made the world she created feel grounded and real. I wouldn’t mind reading a story set in the afterlife-proper.
Here is an example:
“In front of him, at least nine feet tall was a female humanoid shape. She had a neck that was at least three feet long, hunched so as not to hit the ceiling. She hissed and dragger her back leg across the floor. Her clawed hands gripped a stick, and she moved slowly towards them, her mass blocking the exit.”
So here we have a bit of description. After the MC has a heart attack, his new friends say, oh yea, that’s just the janitor. The author doesn’t ever explain what kind of monster she is because the characters are used to her. Peter’s friends say she is not allowed to eat kids anymore. You know there is a story there! It leaves you wanting more. That is exactly what you want the reader to feel! Allsop knew that the backstory here wouldn’t further the plot, so she left that story untold.
When developing your world, you don’t have to put everything you ever brainstormed into the story. One sentence that hints at something more is tantalizing and can make your world feel authentic.
Takeaways from this book:
- Every single scene not only has to have a purpose, it also has to advance the plot.
- Worldbuilding is most effective when you hint at something more intricate and leave the rest to reader’s imagination.
- Research is key. If you are writing about a certain age person and they play a major role, make sure you have a great deal of experience with this age so you can portray them accurately. For further information about developing your characters have a look at this list of posts.
Even though I was not terribly impressed by this writer’s skill, I believe I would read more of her books because the worldbuilding is so interesting.
Lately, I have been feeling the weight of the world and it is rather distracting when I try to write. It is time for a virtual writing retreat. This retreat is designed for one person or for many. You can retreat into your office or rent a cabin in the woods and it will work perfectly! Click below to find out more about it.