Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Kate Middleton was picked on, living in hotels, and Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy
It's like living in a hotel with all your friends. Without your parents, but possibly with loads of magic furniture, secret passages and midnight feasts. No wonder boarding schools are a complete fixture of young adults books and children's stories. From Enid Blyton, through Harry Potter, to Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy.
This last is a great read. It starts slow, and is weirdly like the second in a series, with loads of flashbacks and explaining what has just happened to get our heroes in their current, very dodgy situation. In the middle it sags a bit, there's a lot of explaining how vampire school works, and messing around with red herrings and clues to the twists and turns and smashes and bangs that come at the end. Because of this the third act works very well, and also hooks the reader right in for the sequel.
In all fairness though, boarding school can be scary. Your parents aren't there to take care of you, and there's nowhere you can hide, as shown in the clip above. Mead's boarding school often has more in common with Kate Middleton being (possibly) picked on. There's lots of being ostracized and kept to your room. There are no midnight feasts, though some midnight boozing that I don't think they went in for at St Claire's... The lack of secret passages, given that the school has hundreds of years of vampire history is a serious lack, only just made up for by using fires in the bathroom to distract teachers and sneak into each others dorms. That old trick.
Children's stories are full of plots that allow kids to run their own lives without adults seeming to interfere. In fiction they go on for months, gigantifying the fun that real life kids get from a few hours of freedom. I remember the first time I went away on a school trip, staying in a hostel in London. We stayed up all night eating chocolate digestives and sneaking in and out of each others rooms. It was spectacular. Exhausting and excellent. If Kate Middleton had that kind of fun once a term, then it might have been worth the being picked on. And that's before considering that boarding school was the first step on the road to Buckingham Palace.
I doubt we've seen the last of the boarding school story, if for no other reason than I'm writing one...