School Monitor

Young Adult

Young Adult - General
376 Pages
Reviewed on 06/13/2016
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Lorena Sanqui

Chrissie has experienced bullying in her previous school. It was so severe that she tried to commit suicide. Her twin brother, Richard, felt a big responsibility over what happened, considering it was his best friend that instigated the bullying. They transferred to a new school and Richard was able to make friends immediately. Chrissie, on the other hand, continued on her downward spiral towards depression. Now, because of their father’s work, the twins will be transferring to a new school again, a boarding school at that. This time the roles have been reversed. Chrissie is the cool girl and Richard is the target of bullies. What Richard doesn’t know is that his predicament is caused by someone closer than he realized. Will Richard be able to stop the bullies before it’s his turn; to try to end his suffering in School Monitor by Alex Dunn?

What’s so scary about psychological thrillers is the possibility that it can happen to anyone. School Monitor read so realistically that I had goosebumps going through the whole book. It was a keep you on the edge of your seat kind of book, a real page turner. It was frightening that such acts of cruelty could happen and be initiated by children. Alex Dunn created a masterfully written book. It is a great mystery and psychological horror. The author also wrote some very graphic descriptions of the scenes, both amazing and gruesome. A very well written book. The things that went on in that boarding school were inconceivable. What I would like to see, though, is how the mastermind worked through their plot. How that person managed to manipulate an entire school into targeting a single person. Other than that, it was an amazing book. It would be a great movie too, if it was ever turned into one.

Rosie Malezer

School Monitor is a novel written by Alex Dunn. Fourteen-year-old twins, Richard and Christine Jarvis, are about to change schools. As the commencement date at St. Bartholomew’s – a strict boarding school – draws near, Richard realizes that he has fallen in love with his best friend, Beth, who is none too fond of Chrissie’s self-pity and unhealthy, monopolizing behavior towards Richard. On arrival at St Bart’s, Richard quickly becomes acquainted with a set of unique and brutal guidelines for the school, referred to as The Code. He also meets the son of his father’s very rich, high-profile boss. They become fast friends until a cell phone is stolen and planted on Richard. Alarmed at finding the phone with his belongings, Richard is suddenly branded as a thief, a liar, untrustworthy and somebody to avoid.

The Code kicks in, with Richard being only spoken to by teachers, his sister, and one group of boys who make it their mission to subject him to so much verbal, emotional and physical abuse that he may eventually take his own life if the injuries they inflict don't kill him first. As the teachers at St. Bart’s also swear by The Code, a blind eye is turned, even when Richard shows up heavily bruised and bloodied. It is not until he is hospitalized with serious injuries and treated by a doctor who knows all too well about The Code at St Bart’s (as he has treated many patients who have fallen victim to it) that Richard’s friends from the old school show up and are determined to see him not only survive, but also solve the burning question of who had set him up in the first place.

Although I finished reading School Monitor yesterday, my heart is again beating a mile a minute while typing the review as I recall the shocking yet realistic story which brings to light a very real problem in today’s world. With bullying costing so many lives, whether at the hands of the bully or the victim themselves, it is a serious issue which needs to be talked about and dealt with. Alex Dunn has done an incredible job of presenting the nightmarish life of a young teen who is bullied relentlessly in a boarding school which does not allow contact with the outside world except through vetted correspondence. School Monitor is a tough read, but it is also inspirational, showing that bully victims are not cowards, have nothing to be ashamed of, and that they should always make the bullying act public knowledge. If the teachers or your parents will not listen, find somebody who will because your life is important. I recommend this as essential reading to everyone over the age of 12 years and to all parents, in order to show that victims can survive, and that their report of being bullied is one to be taken very seriously.

Lisa McCombs

There is something magical about twins, even when they are not identical. The emotional bond formed in the womb is unbreakable. Rich, minutes older than Chrissie, has always been his sister’s savior. She is lost without him. When their parents are called away on business, the only logical plan is to send the twins to St. Bartholomew’s, a prestigious boarding school. It is bad enough to leave friends and the familiar safety of their home school, but when Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis expect Rich to befriend the school bully, ironically the son of Mr. Jarvis’ boss, the new school takes on an evil twist. The reputation of St. Bart’s goes beyond academic prowess. Fighting for his life, Rich is forced to accept the dark side of being a twin.

School Monitor by Alex Dunn is a gruesome story of the realities of power while highlighting the theme of bullying. Alex Dunn has captured the essence of teen cruelty at its finest. Dunn masters the language of youth and, unfortunately, captures the realities of adolescent vengeance. The characters are finely constructed and wonderfully believable. The reader’s sympathy shifts from one player to the next, making this an irresistible read. As a former public school teacher, I can attest to the accuracy of Dunn’s story. The plot twist is the perfect touch to make this a truly successful tale. I believe that Alex Dunn is a serious writer on a path to serious success. I really, really enjoyed this story! Kudos to Alex Dunn!