But as harsh as the school is for her and as terribly as some of the teachers and students behave, she finds friends who help her along and root for her from the beginning, even though everyone wants her and expects her to fail, simply because she is a girl. Together they brave the many mysteries that surround the school and embark in several adventures. Besides a strong female lead and satisfying friendships between the main characters, the reader will also encounter clean writing and straightforward prose that keeps the plot moving. There is little introspection, which also helps the story move at a clipped pace. In addition, the author does a great job at creating an interesting and beautiful setting for the School of Deaths itself. The descriptions of the scenery are detailed and capture the imagination—definitely an element that any fantasy reader can appreciate.
Fans of the Harry Potter series will find many similarities to JK Rowling’s works—the students wear robes, the dining hall is described much like the one in Hogwarts, there is a sport reminiscent of Quidditch, and several others—so depending on the reader, this may be a welcomed addition. Personally, I felt the similarities took away from a story that could otherwise have been more original. With the main character being only thirteen, School of Deaths finds itself in the lower end of the young adult genre, where the novel is categorized. A couple of things in the content—berating of Suzie with the use of a couple of offensive words and the events of getting her first period—perhaps justify its classification in YA, but, in all, I would be more comfortable recommending this book to a middle-grade audience. The tone and content are far more suited for younger readers.
With its strong lead and natural interaction between Suzie and her friends, this book can be a great addition to any young reader's library.