|TITLE: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy|
AUTHOR: Nikki Loftin
PUB: Razorbill PUB DATE: 8/21/12
When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream. But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center. Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch. What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!
THREE WORDS: Delicously Dark & Enchanting
MY REVIEW: I love an MG story that isn't afraid to be a bit dark, twisted or chilling, and Nikki Loftin's The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is all of these things...plus, incredibly enchanting and original...AND it has one of the BEST titles and covers ever!
Splendid Academy literally appears overnight, with it's jaw dropping playground and mesmerizing staff, and after Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down she and her brother enroll at this new school. At first, Splendid Academy seems like a dream come true with its high tech equipment, gourmet food, candy bowls in the desks, endless snacks and no rules. But when Lorelei and her new friend Andrew uncover a sinister secret things stop being sweet and go sour. Lorelei must face her own dark secrets, stop a group of picky eater witches and save the students of Splendid Academy.
Nikki Loftin has taken elements of different fairytales and infused them with a lot of imagination to concoct a captivating MG read full of dark whimsy, a mystery that will excite readers and give them the best kind of goosebumps, and a charming heroine.
This is a smartly written tale and, while appropriate for its intended MG audience, it has a fantastic spine-tingly-ness to it. This story isn't all sprinkles and cotton candy fluff, it has a real bite that I think younger readers will love and just eat up. Loftin does a great job of balancing the dark and the light, the sweet and bitter.
I love the setting of Splendid Academy; it has all the irresistible charms and spectacular-ness of Wonka's Chocolate Factory and the wonderment of Wonderland. Readers of all ages will be enchanted by the over the top playground, lackadaisical environment and the delectable goodies served nearly constantly. If it weren't for the threat of witches and dark magic, I'd gladly enroll myself at this school!
Lorelei's adventures at Splendid Academy are anything but sweet, but lucky for readers, Lorelei is a smart, resourceful and brave heroine capable of handling any sticky situation. Loftin has crafted a wonderfully complex and layered heroine with Lorelei, who's flaws, insecurties and accesability makes her so relatable and easy to like. And Lorelei's new BFF, Andrew is such a lovable and likable guy. He makes the perfect sidekick and confidant for the heroine.
Loftin has also given readers antagonists that are easy to hate and scary enough to be exciting, but not terrifying. I think younger readers will appreciate that it's the young characters who save the day in this story and do so without the help of adult characters.
Lorelei and Andrew's escapades at Splendid Academy are full of thrills, chills and twists. There are plenty of moments that had my heart racing or had me laughing or had me "OMGing!" and "Woo-whooing!".
My only small complaint is that at times the story seems to be conveying some kind of message regarding healthy eating, indulgence, etc., but that message doesn't really come through clearly. In regards to this message, the story goes from sounding slightly preachy in the beginning to just dropping the issue altogether by the end of the book. But this issue didn't keep me from enjoying the story as a whole.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is a fun, exciting MG book with an awesome and addicting dark, whimsical filled center. A great read for all ages!
Nikki Loftin is a writer and native Texan who lives just outside Austin, Texas, with her two boys, two dogs, nine chickens, and one very patient husband. She writes Middle Grade novel-length fiction as well as personal essays, puppet plays, articles, poems, and short stories. Nikki is represented by Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary Agency. Her debut novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will be published by Razorbill (Penguin) in Summer 2012.