Author: C.J. Daugherty
Genre: YA Contemporary, Gothic, Thriller, Mystery
Publication Date: January 1, 2012 (UK); May 21, 2013 (US)
Synopsis: Allie Sheridan’s world is falling apart. Her brother’s run away from home. Her parents ignore her. And she’s just been arrested.
This time her parents have had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to boarding school, far from her London friends.
But at Cimmeria Academy, Allie is soon caught up in the strange activities of a secret group of elite students.
When she’s attacked late one night the incident sets off a chain of increasingly violent events. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, she finds out that nothing at Cimmeria is what it seems to be.
And that she is not who she thought she was.
☆: 1.5/5 stars – The Gothic elements are all right sorts of chilling, but the content itself is all the WRONG sorts of chilling.
“Carter must think I’m a complete slapper (UK version, 53% on my Nook).”
Think about this. “Slapper” is generally British slang for “slut” now. This line is thought after Allie and Carter talk about how Sylvain (Allie’s other love interest) tried to rape her, Allie says it was her fault she nearly got raped, and Carter was content to let her blame herself. After all, he tried to tell her not to trust Sylvain but never gave her any hint as to why. All this and Allie’s worry is that Carter will think she’s a slut because a guy got her drunk and tried to rape her.
Two books of outrageously offensive bull in a row is bad for me and believe it or not, it gets worse from there. Night School is an overlong book that promotes rape culture and has no idea how not to fall into petty mean girl drama, general girl-hate, cliches, and boarding school shenanigans other books have done so much better.
The Gothic atmosphere Daugherty develops with her words and story is convincing and enchanting. Though spoilers told me ahead of time if it’s paranormal or not, there were still moments that made me wonder if it really might be what I thought it was. That “is it or isn’t it?” question is the most important thing for any Gothic novel of this type and in that respect, it succeeds. This is all that made reading Night School worth it, sadly.
The characters themselves are flat like cardboard, some so much so that they were literally nothing but names to me. They have no appearances in my mind’s eye, they have little use in the novel itself other than to tell Allie stuff or turn against her or die, and Allie is more interested in the idea that a guy is in love with her than people plotting to frame her for someone’s murder. Really? Also, for someone as used to being in trouble as Allie is, she adjusts to a new school with very strict rules too quickly for it to work. Her love interests are flat too, but they get their own section once I get to the disgusting stuff because they’re both gross beyond belief.
Night School is a bloated novel someone forgot to take the editing scissors to. If this novel were a little better or more original, that might be a problem, but it’s not and it’s not. Stories about boarding school shenanigans are more than familiar to me; over the years, many of them have crossed my computer screen and done the same cliches Daugherty relies on much better by playing with them, subverting them, and/or challenging them. Using them as unironically as this novel does creates anything but an entertaining experience.
It gets even less entertaining when I remember the stories that did it better were free and some of the authors who wrote them were teenagers.
The novel is also rife with internalized misogyny. Sylvain says Allie is unlike “other girls” and that, my friends, is one of the most commonplace examples of internalized misogyny in our society. Have this gif I found on Tumblr to explain why:
Katie is the requisite mean girl with acolytes (that exact word is used!), a way of being cartoonishly mean, and the ability to turn one of Allie’s friends against her and spread nasty rumors. The three female friends Allie has at the start are disposed of by death or near-death and the one and a half (a friendship with one girl lacks development and counts as half) are once again flat and there to serve specific purposes: one to give us other students’ backgrounds, the other to… I can’t remember, honestly. She might not have a purpose after all.
The next part is one I’ve often seen people put in spoilers or not talked about altogether, but it’s not a spoiler about anything important and it needs to be talked about openly for a conversation to start about it, just as the larger problems they’re part of need to be openly talked about in society if we’re supposed to do anything about them.
Sylvain is his own category of awful. At a dance, he gets Allie drunk and tries to rape her. We don’t see him for a while after that, but then he turns turns up to apologize–but he calls what he did to her being rough with her, not trying to rape her. That alone proves to me he isn’t sorry, but he also admits he did similar things to girls before Allie came along. Regardless, Allie forgives him, he gets back into her good graces, and at the end, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because his feelings for Allie are unrequired. THIS IS RAPE CULTURE AND IT’S BAD FOR WOMEN. STOP IT. JUST STOP IT.
Carter is only slightly better. Slightly. He’s one of those love interests who acts like he hates the lead but is actually crushing on her hardcore or passionately in love with her. Not my favorite trope unless it’s done right. What puts him on my bad side is how he tells Allie not to trust Sylvain, gives her no reason why when he’s showing no signs of being his true self (next paragraph), and then allows Allie to blame herself after Sylvain tries to rape her. He himself blames her for what happened to her! It’s one thing if what you’re telling a person not to do without a reason why is touching the stove. It’s another when you’re trying to stop them from going on a date with a guy you know will try to rape them.
I can’t even work up outrage over all this because there’s none left right now. This book and the offensive novel that came before it completely drained me. I register offensive content still, but I can’t Hulk Smash Night School when it deserves it. Boy, does this novel deserve it.
This book comes out in the US May 21 and thanks to a friend reading that version, I know there have been a few elements changed already. Let’s hope the rape culture got toned down and made fifty times less offensive. Best of all would be for it to be removed entirely, but there’s not much hope for that. Books like this leave me hopeless.