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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
School Monitor is a young adult thriller written by Alex Dunn. Richard's emotions went from incredulity to despair when he learned of his father's plan to send him and his twin sister, Chrissie, to St. Bartholomew's. He was in year 10 and didn't understand how his dad could jeopardize his performance in his GCSEs. His dad had become obsessed with getting accepted by his new boss, even if it meant uprooting the family and moving them to Mumbai, and placing his children in the prestigious, if peculiar and strict, school his boss's son, Spencer, was attending. St. Bart's would be a challenging place for both he and Chrissie. Mobile phones and any internet devices were forbidden, and calls to the outside world were only permitted on weekends. Still, Richard felt sure that he could take care of Chrissie, whose attempt at suicide years before had rocked him to his core and set off a load of guilt over his friend Jenny's bullying behavior towards his twin. As the limo drove up to the school, he was immediately struck by the dark and gloomy facade of the building that would be his home. The first students he met seemed okay, if a bit posh, but the welcoming committee's dire warnings about breaking The Code were ominous indeed.
Alex Dunn's young adult thriller, School Monitor, is an outstanding tale about obsession and mental instability. Richard's life soon devolved into a hellish existence when he was adjudged to have broken The Code. After that, no other student could be seen talking to or helping him, and his fellow classmates could physically abuse him without any fear of repercussion. He had been accused of the theft of a mobile device that was planted in his bag, and any attempts he had made to proclaim his innocence seemed to only worsen his situation. To make matters worse, his parents turned a deaf ear to his pleas for help, and his father seemed in many ways to be the worst of his tormentors in his lack of concern for his son’s survival and his obsession with work.
Dunn explores the dynamics between twins in this gripping thriller that has the classy feel and underlying tension of a Hitchcock film. Richard is probably one of the most unforgettable characters I've come across in some time. He stands larger than life in his role as an old-world-style hero who must somehow prove his innocence without betraying his ethics. School Monitor is a sheer delight to read, even if some of the bullying episodes are guaranteed to make anyone whose veins don’t run cold wince and cringe a bit. There’s the suspense and subtle horror of a Stephen King story and the marvelous cinematic touches of Hitchcock at play in this most unusually titled and highly original psychological thriller. While it was written for a young adult audience, it’s a grand read for adults as well. School Monitor is most highly recommended.