(2016) A. K. Benedict, BBC Books, £7.99, pbk, 296pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94187-0
There's an old stone house near Coal Hill school and most people hurry by it.
But if you stop, and look up, you'll see a girl by the window screaming…
This is a one of the first novels from the Doctor Who spin-off show, Class, which is aimed at a teenage following. It is set in Coal Hill School, which in itself appeared in a number of Doctor Who stories where something mysterious, otherworldly and supernatural frequently took place. The series centres around a group of young adults who are not only faced with the challenges of growing up but are also drawn into the perils that a rift in space and time brings.
The story is told from the point of Tanya, the youngest of the group, whose attention is drawn to a spooky looking house that seems to sap light and warmth from everything around it. Her attention is drawn to a figure in the window, screaming for help, and despite for foreboding nature of the abode in question, it is not one she feels she can ignore.
There is very much a human element to this story and Tanya’s interactions with her schoolmates is written in a style that matches the environment. It takes some convincing for her to make her classmates understand what is so important about this house and the secrets it holds. What adds to this is Tanya’s thoughts around this, the effect the house has on her and how this in turn affects her classmates.
The approaches the characters take in their fact finding and agreement – or not – about investigating is very much true to how they are portrayed in the series. While the haunted house trope could be something that has been seen many times before, this adds a refreshingly different spin to it with the acknowledgement of urban legends and the practicalities of property development.
The later part of the book focuses on Miss Quill who is a perfect choice in this respect as she sets out to get answers in her own direct way. The author is clearly familiar enough with the character of Miss Quill to fully do her justice and to bring out the best of what could be simple fact-finding conversations and investigations into the house itself.
The story behind the house and who is trapped inside it is gradually revealed in a way that adds just the right element of suspense. This starts off on its own tangent and then meshes with the main storyline taking place. There are some genuinely creepy moments which are made the most of in the way the events unfolding are described along with the reactions of those involved.
Rather than being a clichéd haunted house tale, there are some genuinely thought provoking themes from immigration, refugees, loss and grief. With such themes, an element of humour is very much needed and this is provided through the dialogue, observations and a strong narrative. These themes are also handled effectively and fit into the plot in a surprisingly thought provoking way.
There is a twist in the end that I would not be doing the book justice to reveal – but what I will say is that it is not only surprising, it also fits in beautifully with the story itself and brings it to a natural conclusion, answering questions in a very effective final reveal.
This book is suitable for a juvenile readership and anyone older who enjoys the series Class. Personally, I found it a very enjoyable read due to the pace, the style of writing and the way the characters were handled. At present, it is not known whether Class will get a second series (I am hoping so) but it is certainly well served with a novel such of this and the largish font is refreshingly easy on the eyes.
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