by Gitty Daneshvari
Recommended Ages: 12+
Then they find out the School of Fear is a nightmarishly weird, decaying mansion inhabited by a batty, way-past-her-prime beauty queen and her devoted, but mostly blind, manservant Schmidty. Mrs. Wellington subjects the kids to a ridiculous regime of tips for beauty pageant contestants. She exposes them to stunningly bad smells, an indoor polo ground with Astroturf and stuffed horses, a "fearnasium" where they practice imagining themselves exposed to their worst fears, food that tastes like maggoty cheese, and the awful spectacle of herself without her make-up or her wig on. She subjects them to an unrelenting barrage of passive-aggressive sarcasm, the company of four cats who (she claims) have been ingeniously trained to act entirely untrained, the affections of an overweight bulldog named Macaroni, and the pernicious influence of a sneaky, grasping, compulsively gambling lawyer.
The four kids get on each other's nerves. Their personalities bristle against each other. They bicker about Maddy's bug spray fetish, about Theo's non-stop histrionics, about Lulu's eye-rolling meanness, you name it. But as much as they differ among themselves, they all agree Mrs. Wellington's "treatment" is unlikely to help them overcome their fears, even the tiniest bit. And there's little chance of them escaping, since the School of Fear is situated on a plateau above an impenetrable forest.
Then... nah, I'm not going to tell you. Let's just say stuff happens that forces these self-absorbed, argumentative pre-teens to work together as a team, to think about someone besides themselves, and to begin - just begin - to face their worst fears. More detail than that would spoil their whimsically unexpected (even if, on a basic level, somewhat predictable), hilarious and exciting adventure.
|See what I mean?|