School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari

Madeleine Masterton is deathly afraid of bugs.

Theodore Bartholomew is petrified of dying.

Lulu Punchalower is scared of confined spaces.

Garrison Feldman is terrified of deep water.

Which is why this will be the scariest summer of their lives.

The foursome must face their phobias head-on at the exclusive and elusive School of Fear.

There’s no homework and no exams. But if they don’t conquer their fears by the end of the course, they’ll find out just how frightening failing can be.

The first rule of The School of Fear is that you don’t talk about the School of Fear, the second rule is that once you are in you are in! No calling home, no contact with the outside world and the only way out is if you conquer your phobias or break the rules and then you have to confront the dreaded Munchauser & Son Law Firm.

Part of me wishes the School of Fear actually existed as there are several kids I work with who are very similar to the main characters, although only one has a severe enough phobia to be admitted to the school (antidaephobia).

Phobias aside the protagonists would not be out of place in a John Hughes movie, there is the nerd, the jock, the beauty queen and the annoying one. Instead of being stuck in detention they have been sent to an isolated school in the middle of nowhere to be cured of their phobias, no joyful summer for them, they are stuck with Mrs Wellington the possibly insane headmistress with an obsession with beauty pageants, Mr Schmidtey the decrepit handyman and Macaroni the dog, still in mourning for his companion Cheese. Then there is Mr Munchauser the fearsome lawyer and a mysterious figure who lurks in the woods.

The introduction to the main characters was hilarious, never have phobias been quite so funny, dealing with phobias is a serious issue but Gitty Daneshvari imbues it with humour that made me laugh, even as I sympathised with the protagonists. The teens are all portrayed relatively realistically with all the quirks and foibles that one can expect from teens.

Broken up into 23 chapters each one starting with a different phobia I was educated as I read, I had no idea where the story was leading up until the final few chapters when everything meshed together.

School of Fear is a solid, entertaining read for tween and middle grade readers!

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