Written by Angelina Allsop, Peter Green And The Unliving Academy follows a 14-year-old boy who can’t remember how he died. All he has are his pyjamas, a silk tie, and a one-way bus ticket to Mrs Battisworth’s Academy and Haven for Unliving Boys and Girls, a strange and spooky school for dead orphans like himself. The Unliving Academy has everything, from vampires in the hallways, to monsters in the cafeteria, to ghosts in the basement. And that’s just the teachers; the students are far stranger.
As Pete learns to fit in with his new supernatural schoolmates, he starts to discover his own uniquely undead abilities and even begins enjoying his life after death. But he just can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgotten something (or somebody!) important. Somebody he left behind in the land of the living. Somebody he loved very much. Somebody who’s in terrible danger.
Thank you to TCK Publishing for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Peter Green And The Unliving Academy is a young adult adventure/fantasy set in the world of the undead. The fantastical elements are imaginative and exciting and the concept is set up well with great descriptions of the school and its teachers and pupils.
From the start, it has you thinking about how the story will play out. Peter has just died – is this going to be a story about overcoming grief and loss? Or is it a story about what adventures await in the afterlife?
With it being explained straight away that the students of The Unliving Academy aren’t allowed their memories until they reach the age of 18, it is quickly made apparent that this first instalment in The Unliving Chronicle is a more light-hearted adventure. With Pete being unable to remember his past, there is no need for him to feel sad about what he has left behind and, instead, can look forward at what exciting things he has to look forward to.
For younger readers, this is a great set-up that sets the tone of the story early on. The subplot of Pete feeling like he has left something/someone behind is only briefly mentioned until it is properly explored in the final few chapters. For younger readers, this means that the story can focus on the more fun side of the premise, seeing Pete learn about his undead abilities and joining a number of different school clubs.
As a parent, however, I wanted the focus to be on Pete trying to remember his past, as this would have allowed the author to explore some deeper and more complex themes. What we are left with are a group of characters without any real conflicts or regrets. That’s fine for younger readers who just want to read about monsters and to have an adventure, but teenagers are growing up much faster these days and will be expecting something a little more.
The main character, Pete, is 14 years old, but the characters feel like they are much younger than this. Readers of this age want to read about more serious themes nowadays, whereas the book doesn’t really explore any emotions, relationships, or coming-of-age issues. It does touch on them, but it only ever briefly touches on such subjects. Because of this, the book is much more suitable for readers a few years younger.
Aside from this, my only other problem with the story is that there’s so much going on that the focus is constantly taken away from, what I felt, were the more important topics. I wanted to know about Pete’s past, about what happened to him before he died, but the concept restricts this from happening. With the constant adventures and new experiences that Pete faces at his new school, it’s not until the very end that we get any of these answers.
The book could have better worked as two stories, with the first explaining more about the new world that Pete has entered and focusing on his lack of memories/the need to help his sister, and a second book focusing on Pete’s secret missions as he begins to settle into his new life and make friends. That way, I could have enjoyed the secret missions, the prom, and the sneaking around at night without thinking “But what about Pete’s sister?!”
The book may not explore any darker themes that a premise like this would normally open up, but the friendships formed in the book are strong and there are some very heartwarming scenes towards the end. Again, it would have been much better if these emotions had been focussed on earlier as this would have allowed readers to engage with the characters more. Instead, it feels a little too late when we finally get to know more about them as we may never get to see them again by this point.
For younger readers, Peter Green And The Unliving Academy is a lot of fun and the story, albeit somewhat simple in terms of the issues and morals that it explores, is brilliantly detailed and imaginative. There are a number of proofreading errors throughout the book but they certainly wouldn’t get in the way for younger readers. Other than that, the characters are definitely a fun group who you are left wanting to spend more time with.
Fans of the book will be glad to know that more instalments have been planned and the after-life of Pete will continue. You can buy the first instalment in the series here.