by Christopher Mannino
Release Date: 05/02/14
Summary from Goodreads:
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 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.
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.
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This is an interesting and well plotted young adult/middle grade novel about a girl being forced to enter a world and accept a life she never would have chosen for herself. Suzie is the first female death in a million years, but she has huge obstacles to face because of the strong hatred held for women at the School of Deaths. Her struggles to brave the bullying and continue forward are commendable, and I think addressing the issue of bullying at this early age is important to note. We feel the humiliation and embarrassment Suzie suffers due to unfair prejudices, open hostility and verbal abuse. I think it is important that teens understand how this behavior can hurt others. We're certainly able to place ourselves in Suzie's shoes.
The school and surrounding areas are described in rich detail, and the culture and customs were intriguing. I had a few Harry Potter moments during the book due to the similar dress codes, schooling experiences and the school sport described in the book. This is not a Harry Potter copy cat, mind you, and has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter, but the feel of discovery and anticipation for something unique and exciting felt similar with a few detailed items shared.
I think Suzie is brave and adventurous. A loyal friend and likeable heroine. She has plenty of room for character growth and development which is good considering she is only thirteen. I loved that her house mates were so kind and supportive, a real team made up of two young boys attempting to come to terms with their own lives being turned upside down.
There is obviously more to this story than meets the eye with the introduction of a different species, the history of Suzie's ancestors and the tantalizing idea that Dragons were the original grim reapers and not the current deaths running the show. It will be interesting to see where this author takes the storyline and characters from here.
I enjoyed this novel right from the beginning, and would highly recommend it to fans of middle grade and young adult fantasy and paranormal genres. I'd even recommend it to all of the fanatic Harry Potter fans out there. That's right all of you Harry Potter nerds, present company included. You're welcome.
Four Cherry blossoms it is!
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