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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Death's Academy" by Michael Bast (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit the Official Site of Death's Academy Here

OVERVIEW: The Death’s Academy entrance exam for Midnight Smith is quickly approaching. There’s just one problem: Midnight is the worst exam taker the academy has ever seen. If Midnight wants to ever step foot inside the school, he’ll have to join forces with the hated Guardian Angels, and together face the deadliest creatures in the world—the dreaded Unicorns. Becoming a Grim Reaper has never been more hilarious!

FORMAT: Death's Academy is a middle grade novel. It is humorous and contains elements of mystery and adventure. It stands at 249 pages and was published January 14, 2014 by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media.

ANALYSIS: What do you get when you take hoodies, angels, unicorns, and humans and combine it with gumdrops, lollipops and candy? Well, you get the world that was created for Death's Academy by Michael Bast.

I came across Death's Academy by accident while browsing my library's website. The synopsis appeared to be a combination of a Harry Potter meets Percy Jackson concept mixed with the humor that is found in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  So, I figured I'd give it a shot and I am glad I took a chance, as this novel is one of the best middle school novels I've read in a while.

What makes Death's Academy so good? It is the voice that Michael Bast brings to the novel. He has a way of telling the story in a fun, humorous style that doesn't seem to get old. There are running jokes throughout the book, but Bast knows how to toe the line between keeping the jokes alive and making sure they don't get old.

Bast knows how to bring humor to the story. There were several parts that I found funny, and most certainly if I were a child in middle school there would have been other parts that were just as hilarious. Death's Academy certainly has enough to keep the average adult reader entertained, but it is a book that is targeted to middle school, so there are plenty of fart references and other middle school humor elements thrown in.

In addition to the smooth, humorous voice, Death's Academy is unique, funny and a little bit 'out there'. Taking a look at all the elements of the book separately – guardian angels, grim reapers, unicorns, candy villages, and humans – it would seem like someone just took whatever thought came into their head and threw it down on paper. Even if this is what Bast did, he did it successfully.

Everything in Death's Academy seems to connect to each other and make the plot flow. There is just enough backstory provided that readers aren't lost, but readers aren't bogged down with lengthy explanations. The backstory that is provided is enough to make the characters stand on their own, but allows the readers to grow and learn with the characters.

What is nice about Death's Academy is the readers aren't rooting for the typical 'good' guy. Night, the main character, is ultimately a bad guy, but he isn't. He looks out for his friends, has difficulty killing things, and really wants to do what is best for everyone. Sure, he's a little mouthy and strong willed, but he works for the story and is relatable to almost everyone who reads this book.  

If you are looking for detailed, in-depth plot elements, you probably aren't going to find it with Death's Academy. There is enough to keep the story going, but adult readers will certain find holes in the story – and if you are looking to nitpick, I'm sure there is something there to find.

While I enjoyed Death's Academy, there is something that I would – if I had the power – change. I believe the title of the book is a bit misleading. It is more of a prequel to Death's Academy. The main character – Night – spends his time worrying about getting into the academy and really doesn't spend one moment at the academy.

The lack of Death's Academy doesn't take away from the novel, and once other novels are added to what one can assume will be a series it will make sense. However, it is a good setup to what will be a very promising series.

Overall, Death's Academy was a major surprise for me. I loved the main character and found him believable. In fact, I was rooting for him and felt a little bad for him at times. I really think Death's Academy is a great read for almost everyone. It is a great 'read aloud' book for families, while older more independent readers will find it a fun read. Adults will certainly appreciate the humor and creativity that is obvious with this novel.

I look forward to reading more from Michael Bast and hope the Death's Academy series will continue. I know I'll be waiting for more.


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