Review: Night School by C.J. Daugherty

Monday, May 13, 2013
Title: Night School
Author: C.J. Daugherty
Genre: young adult, mystery, contemporary
Series: Night School #1
Pages: 400
Published: January 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

Allie's world is falling apart...

She hates her school. Her brother has run away. And she's just been arrested.


Now her parents are sending her away to a boarding school where she doesn't know a soul.

But instead of hating her new school, Allie finds she's happy there. She's making friends. And then there's Sylvain, a suave French student who openly flirts with her. And Carter, the brooding loner who seems to have her back.

Soon, though, Allie discovers Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Nothing there is as it seems. And her new friends are hiding dangerous secrets.

C.J. Daugherty has several things going for her in her debut novel and the first in her Night School series: a chilling, thoroughly Gothic vibe, an interesting and just-convoluted-enough conspiracy theory, and a somewhat rounded main character. Unfortunately for both Night School and its readers, Daugherty loses sight of what she should write about and focuses on mean girls, petty high school drama, "mysterious" boys, and an obnoxious love trianle with Allie at the center. There are kernels of good ideas at play in the novel, but but so much of what's worth time and attention gets lost in the morass of overwritten drama that takes center stage.

Allie is a...decent protagonist. She's serviceable, I guess. That's the best I can do with what Daugherty gave me. She had her moments where I wanted to shake her (any time she is swooning over either a creepy or a borderline abusive love interest) but she also had moments where she took a stand (at the dance? With Sylvain? Hell yeah. Unfortunately as the even gets further behind her, Allie gets more forgiving...) and I found myself caring about her. Still, there are multiple issues with Allie's characterization. Of course two totally hot, mysterious and unattainable guys are in love with Allie. Of course. How utterly unexpected. It's just so trite and overdone, and Allie's interactions with both highlight how much more interested Night School is in silly romance and teenage relationships than it is in crafting a taut thriller/conspiracy novel.

It also doesn't help Night School that there are so many plotlines left open and questions unanswered by the final page. It's a frustrating experience for a reader to invest so much time in a four-hundred page novel that, due to those unsatisfying factors, ends up being nothing more than a lengthy introduction; one with little to no resolution. I had trouble with this until very close to the end. The endless mysteries and secrets that EVERYONE besides Allie is in on, the unexplained caste system between the Night School students and the regular students... it did nothing for me. My experience did get slightly better, towards the very end but the utter lack of any resolution is very, very frustrating.

I have Concerns about Cimmeria Academy. (First: what kind of school would provide alcohol - their own brand! - to students at a school dance, hosted at the school? What?!) The author deliberately paints the school in broad strokes; all the better to make her audience curious about its endgame with the students. What is Night School? Why are only some students involved? How are they picked? What do they do? -All of which set up more with expectations than the actual reveal can deliver. When you find out the point, or the barest outline of the point of Night School that is shown in the first book, it's a let down, pure and simple. There's not enough there there; the knowledge imparted to Allie is minimal, and laughable. It comes across as a desperate ploy to ensure continued reading and frustrated me even more. 

The complete lack of a reason for the antagonists motivation also is ridiculous. Readers are just supposed to get that he wants Something and It Is Very Dangerous and he will do anything to get it. Why? What lead up to that and what he does in the book? If you haven't even cracked the cover, you know just as much as I do, four hundred pages later. No one - at least no one interesting and worth reading about, is evil for evil's sake. Give me a villain with reasons, intelligence and believable motivations and you've just upped the appeal of your book. For all that, the minor antagonist? From the events at the dance? That revelation did manage to surprise me, and even if I can't wholly buy into why they did what they did (again: no answers, no real motivations shown), I can appreciate how ably the author pulled it off.

There are some obvious issues with Night School. For all that, I did enjoy aspects of it. The Gothic vibe works well for the story, Allie isn't a complete waste of space, and it's a pretty readable novel. It may be more work that its worth, but then again, I can't promise I won't be drawn into reading the sequel, Legacy, when it comes out. The contents of the first Night School novel can't quite live up to the premise (or that awesome cover) but it's not a complete mess. It just gets lost in the mundane and neglects the ideas and themes that could have made it truly original.

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully, I was never drawn to this story. I feel as if mostly everything "new" these days winds up just being a standard, derivative novel. I'm sorry this one didn't work out for you, Jessie. I know it disappointed a lot of readers, so I hope your next read is MUCH better! :)


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