“Nothing is quieter, or has more secrets . . . than a book that’s closed” (233), writes Avi in his newest novel, School of the Dead. With each turn of the page, the book whispers its secrets about why Uncle Charlie is so different, why Jessica Richards walks with a limp, and how Tony Gilbert gets in to Penda School, a private school in San Francisco, so easily.
Uncle Charlie may be eccentric, but he is the best friend of sixth grader Tony Gilbert, who hates fakery—especially adults who pretend to enjoy adolescent pastimes. But Uncle Charlie loves kids’ stuff like video games, spooky stories, and creepy movies. He even buys Charlie a red Gibbon slackline, a potentially dangerous gift, telling Charlie that it is “good practice for being a ghost” (9).
Although Charlie doesn’t believe in ghosts and considers a lot of the supernatural distractions that occupy Uncle Charlie hokum, he discovers that the more he and Uncle Charlie talk about the supernatural, the more ordinary it seems. When Uncle Charlie dies, Tony loses his best friend and grows depressed, walking around in a dead-like state.
At first when Tony begins to see his uncle, he writes those visions off as memories come to life because of their close bond and his inability to move on, but the visions continue. Then, Tony begins to see other ghosts, namely the Penda Boy. And Penda School is weird; Tony knows the school personnel are all hiding something. So, when Jessica Richards, a student at the school and a member of the Weird History Club, befriends him and shares his suspicions, Tony wants not only to solve the mystery of the Penda Boy but to discover what the school is hiding.
In his efforts to solve the mystery, Tony learns the significance of seven while also acquiring an interesting perspective about memories as ghosts. After all, when we bring the past to life in the present, memories and history certainly carry the potential to haunt us.
In this paranormal ghost story, Avi not only gives new meaning to the word
but also answers the question: When impossible things happen, does that make them possible? Furthermore, he writes metaphorically and realistically about depression and its power to render a person half dead. Will Tony escape the weirdness of his fate or will he succumb to his depression? Open Avi’s book and discover its secrets; you’ll never think about seventh grade the same again!
- Posted by Donna