Yay! I’m back to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Well, for this week anyway. I’ve been on a bit of a young adult kick lately since that’s what I’m writing at the moment. However, I managed to squeeze in a middle grade read last week, and it’s definitely worthy of a review. So here’s THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Nikki Loftin.
Golden bowls of candy in every desk? Mouth-watering cafeteria meals, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? This place is every kid’s dream!
But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew begin to suspect that their teacher, the hypnotic Ms. Morrigan, is not who she seems. The mountains of syrupy pancakes and heaps of marzipan leave a sickening taste in their mouths as they uncover a sinister mystery at the heart of their classroom.
What Lorelei and Andrew soon discover chills their bones, and might even pick them clean!
And here are the five things I loved most:
1. The cover and title – I’m grouping these together because they’re both about my first impression. I love the alliteration in the title, and it’s absolutely perfect for the story. So is the illustration on the cover. The three shadows peeking out the door. The trees looping into the words. Lorelei and Andrew. Just perfect.
2. The metaphors – I love it when an author comes up with a metaphor that gives me such a perfect image of what the character sees. Here are a couple of examples:
“Mom. The word hung in the air like sparkles of dust in the sunlight, bringing with it memories and pain.”
“‘Have it your way, dear,’ she said, and something in her blue eyes flashed, like lightning far away.”
3. The allusions to eating – I don’t think I’m spoiling anything since the tagline says, “Were we being fed? Or fattened up?” It’s pretty clear what’s going on at this school, so it’s fun to read into the things teachers say that wouldn’t normally have another meaning but become quite ominous when you suspect they plan to eat you. There are many of these in the book, and they’re cleverly done.
“‘Where’s … Andrew?’
“‘Oh, your little friend? You don’t need to worry about him anymore. I–what’s the expression you kids use?–oh, yes. I really chewed him out.'”
4. The mystery – There are many threads woven into this story, and while the main mystery isn’t much of one, there are others being slowly unveiled in the background. What happened to Lorelei’s mother? Is Principal Trapp in on it? It kept me engaged, wondering how it would all come together in the end, and it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I love it when that happens!
5. The underlying messages – I like it when a book is able to convey important messages without hitting you over the head. Nikki Loftin does this well. Lorelei and Andrew both have issues they struggle with. Andrew’s weakness for food is what tips him off about what’s happening at the school, and his explanation to Lorelei could possibly help kids with the same issue. I don’t want to give away Lorelei’s main struggle since it factors into the climax, but it’s an excellent message as well.
I’ll definitely pick up Ms. Loftin’s next book when it comes out. Has anyone else read this one? What did you think?