Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Scary School by Derek the Ghost

Scary School by Derek the Ghost
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 237
Received: Review copy from author 
Rating: N/A
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky.


You know how sometimes MG books are written in a way that makes them great for adults to read, too? Well, Scary School was not one of those MG books for me. As an adult, I struggled to get through the book. I found the humor not to my taste and the repetitive phrases grated after a while.

But, I am far from the target audience, and as far as they're concerned Scary School should be a big hit. Narrated by a ghost (though it reads more like the omniscient third-person), the story loosely follows Charles Nukid (who is also the new kid in school, haha) as he makes his way through his first year and participates in the Ghoul Games.

I say loosely because most of the book focuses on vignettes introducing the various characters and providing humorous backstories for each. Though there is a touch of Alice in Wonderland-esque nonsense to many of the characters, their stories are memorable and will likely all hit the mark with young readers.

Scary School breaks the mold and is a breath of fresh air in a genre riddled with typical paranormal creatures described in typical ways. Everything from witches and vampires to the unexpected dress-wearing tyrannosaurus rex and unconventional dodo birds make an appearance, but even the more mundane creatures are given new life through the author's creative descriptions.

But who exactly is the target audience? I'd say elementary school girls AND boys who are able to handle a longer chapter book. While this is a MG book, it is definitely on the younger side of the spectrum.

Though called "scary" there isn't much tension or peril to frighten sensitive readers. I would hand Scary School to my library kids who are a little too timid to try something like Goosebumps but want something more like the Bunnicula-type "horror." (Warning though, characters drop dead left and right, and even though most come back to life in some way or another, this might trouble some extra-sensitive readers.)

Kids able to appreciate deadpan humor, puns, and nonsensical humor will likely eat this up. Also, reluctant readers may appreciate the almost short story nature of the vignettes. The book is also peppered with fabulous illustrations kids will likely enjoy.

I am not rating this book due to the clash between my personal level of enjoyment and the fact that the target audience should enjoy it a lot more than I did. 

Do you have any questions about Scary School that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!


  1. Too bad. At least it's nice that kids will enjoy it, but I selfishly am much more interested in MG books that I'll enjoy!

    Are you familiar with T.R. Burns new book Bad Apple (The Merits of Mischief #1). "Burns" is a pseudonym for Tricia Rayburn. I met her at BEA and heard her talk about the book. It sounds like a really cute MG. I think you'd like it.

  2. Small-
    I reviewed this one as well today! I agree with you that it's a bit tedious for adults, but I recognize who it's written for and it's perfect for them. I did think the reference to Jason was kind of funny! And Nurse HairyMoles, you had to laugh at that! But yeah, I understand. Still it is great for those precocious readers that need long books but still something not above their level. I've run into many of those in the elementary school. It's always a challenge to find a book for them that's long enough that they don't finish overnight. Scary School is perfect for that kind of reader.


  3. Oh i loved this book! For some reason i found it really fun and light next to all those things we read. I have a thing for middle grade books. And i really liked the art inside! It was beautifully done :)

    True though, the book is for younger readers mostly.

  4. Your review was everything I was trying to say in my review (and failed to do :P). I did have a very hard time getting through this book and I also decided not to rate it for the same reasons. While I don't think this is a book that will be loved by adults, I have no doubt that younger readers will enjoy it. It was a fresh mix of well-known paranormal creatures and new and creative ones. Normally I like MG, but this one just wasn't in the cards for me. Oh, well :P Great review though!!

    All the best ♥
    Mackenzie @ Oh, For the Love of Books!

  5. Huh, I didn't think the reading level bothered me as much. I thought it was funny and smartly written for the target audience though I can see how this one didn't mesh with you as an adult.

  6. I love when Middle Grade has adult appeal, but my nephew tends to really love the books that don't appeal to me at all. I think he'll love this. My sister says he's too young for goosebumps, which makes me sad.

  7. I've got this one for review and have heard good things about it so hopefully I enjoy it rather than attempting to struggle through it. If I don't like it, at least I can make my brother read it.

  8. I'm sorry it wasn't quite to your tastes, but I think that was nice of you NOT to rate the story...since you aren't the target audience and it does sound like something people should check out for a younger reader. It sounds like a really fun book, but I'm thinking I woudl agree with you if I tried to read it...some MG just doesn't translate well for older readers. Thanks for your thoughts though.


  9. Hmm, interesting, I have this book as a potential review book, but I'm struggling to get through my stack. I may have to wait for this one. There are so many others which sound so much more my style that I need to get to first. Maybe my nephew could read this and enjoy it. He's 12 yrs.


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