Review: School's Out by Brian Keene

School's Out
By Brian Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the afterword, author Brian Keene shares a story about driving his son to school and engaging in a conversation about how the boy will always have to go to school. His son refutes the claim, telling Keene that he won't have to go to school after the apocalypse. The idea stuck, and Brian picked his kid's brain for more details, embarking on a collaboration with his nine-year-old that resulted in School's Out, a small, fun bit of middle-grade horror fiction.

School's Out is geared toward a younger audience (the sentences are short, and the prose is kept pretty simple), although it does have decidedly dark, adult themes running through its core. Eight-year-old Alan is stuck in the confines of his home after his father dies from an apocalyptic virus ravaging the country. We're spared the worst of the devastation given the narrow premise and Alan's innocence, but there's enough inferences made to let the horror's hit home. The more immediate threat, though, is Alan's dead father and the boy's close and uncomfortable encounter with human mortality. Because this is aimed at younger audiences, Keene spares us the gross details, but the less-is-more approach lets adult imaginations run rampant and invokes more than a few moments of uncomfortable squirms.

Parents will want to read School's Out before exposing their children to it and determine if their kids are mature enough for the story and its themes. The good news is, it's a fine enough read for adult audiences looking for an hour's entertainment.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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