I pledge allegiance
to the school
of John Tyler High.
And to the principles for which it stands.
One student body, under Charter,
With rules and regulations for all.
Horror writer Bentley Little took on homeowners associations in his novel “The Association.” In “The Store” he mocked superstores such as Wal-Mart. In “The Resort” he turned a vacation destination into a spook fest.
This time around, Little turns his pen against charter schools in “The Academy.”
The teachers of Tyler High vote to become a charter school, a move that reinforces the cliche, “Be careful what you wish for.” As soon as the school goes charter, people begin to change.
The principal, once friendly, becomes demanding and menacing. Teachers begin introducing unusual subjects, asking parents to pose nude for art class and forcing kids to pray in chanting circles. Parents are required to volunteer 20 hours a semester and students are forced to sell commercial products, all under threat of severe penalty. A wall is put up around the school and some students are enlisted into Nazi-style squads to enforce the rules of the charter.
The few teachers who openly object to the policy changes begin to disappear, as do some of the more academically challenged students, who might lower the overall test scores, which would endanger the school’s charter status.
Little once again masterfully morphs a benign subject into something sinister. Ghosts and shadows have teachers and students shaking with fear, at least those who haven’t sworn their loyalty to the charter.
Just as in his previous novels, Little not only scares, but grosses out readers, as well as making them laugh. In “The Academy” he’s able to put a character in the middle of a crowd in broad daylight and still make it spooky, transferring the dread the characters feel straight to the readers.
Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw motion, a furtive shadow the size of a skinny girl that darted between two of the buildings so quickly that he was not sure it was even there.
In the window of Mrs. Habeck’s classroom, the shade was swinging from side to side, as though someone within the room had been peeking out and had quickly backed away.
“Let’s get out of here.”
Fans of Bentley Little won’t be disappointed with his latest work. He can’t write them fast enough for me.
I pledge allegiance