Saint Michaels Academy is a hotbed of hazing and brutality. 80 years of tradition dictate that the seniors haze the freshmen. It schools degenerates and troubled teens who no one else can handle. It’s a run down building that is falling to pieces as we first see in the very start of the book when an upperclassman goes berserk on Open House Day and is found running along the rooftops pushing crumbling statues of saints onto the crowd below. Three boys touring the school that day get their first glimpse of what is to come.
Three freshmen start the next year, Peter Davidek, Noah Stein and Lorelei. They must navigate the halls while also dodging the bullies and harassment that all freshmen get in their first year. Can they pull together as a team to hit back at the bullies or fall prey to them? It’s hard to tell who are the worse of the bullies, the students or the teachers who can be just as bad. It’s hard to fight when you are surrounded and have nowhere to turn. Can they make it to the end of the year Picnic when all the freshmen have to act out whatever “their” senior tells them to, it’s the end of the year humiliation that is traditional and St Michaels is all about tradition.
Everybody seems to be hiding a secret, something that, if it got out, could be used to hurt and torment him or her for the year to come. From the priest who has a rather large secret of his own, down to the lowest freshman, everybody has something to hide. Each is fighting either physical or mental abuse back home as well as in school. There is only one rule You can’t hurt anyone who can hurt you back. If you thought your high school years were tough, you haven’t seen anything like this!
I found this book gripping but hard to read as well. I understand this is a book about bullying and what harm it can cause but I found it overwhelming in the brutality of it and how anarchic the students were, the teachers who joined in the bullying and the teachers who stood by and did nothing to stop it. The whole school was in on the act to make the freshmen lives a living hell. I found that I would have wanted to kill myself if I was going to this school. Only one or two people bullied me in school but and it stopped when I stood up and fought back but what happens in this book is a bit much and a stretch of the imagination for cruelty on such a large and all encompassing scale.
This is a topical book at the moment but again I think the overall scale of it in the book is a bit much and over the top. I was going to give this book 3 stars but I will stretch to 3 and a half.
ARC provided by St Martins Press/Netgalley
3 ½ stars
Buy: Amazon UK