Heidi Angell is the author of The Hunters Series, The Clear Angel Chronicles, and The Hell School Series. Additionally, she also created Royal Prince Vince and Creative Exercises to Inspire. When she is not reading and writing, she can be found spending quality time with her lovely family camping, hiking, swimming, or watching movies. Don’t forget to check out her blog and to follow her on social media!
The book tour for Hell School: Fresh Meat, the first installment in Angell’s Hell School series, runs from February 21, 2016 until March 28, 2016. (Segue: I’m one of the last tour stops. Oh em!) Aside from book reviews from different bloggers, the tour also features excerpts from the book, character spotlights, author interviews and even poetry! If you wish to check out the rest of the book tour stops, visit Heidi’s blog for more information.
High school is hard, especially when you’re a freshman in a new town, surrounded by people you don’t understand and who don’t understand you. Sam was overwhelmed just trying to fit in. Then she is singled out with the first letter.
While some girls envy the “romantics” of this unknown admirer, Sam can tell something isn’t right. Sam wanted to just blend in, but someone’s eye is fixated on her. As the letters and bad poetry continue, so does the nagging in Sam’s stomach telling her this is not normal.
When things escalate from strange to creepy, Sam’s world becomes a nightmare. Twisted admiration is stalking her around every corner in the high school from hell…
Title: Hell School: Fresh Meat
Author: Heidi Angell
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Romance
As the synopsis suggests, the novel falls under the YA stalker genre. I’m glad this book was brought to my attention as I rarely stumble upon books revolving around stalking – which, by the way, should never be taken lightly.
In my opinion, stalking is the most difficult form of harassment to write about as it often appears to pale in comparison to the more, quote, intense, unquote, kinds of harassment (e.g. rape, sexual abuse). I think a significant number of people don’t take the issue of stalking as seriously as they should. Moreover, as stalking commonly happens from a distance (whereas things like rape and molestation involve a more direct approach), this particular theme is quite difficult to pull off because in order for it to be taken to heart, it has to be presented in a way that is both obvious and haunting while simultaneously keeping it realistic.
On the surface, the book mainly deals with the manner in which Sam is coping with being the new student in an unfamiliar high school and the development of her relationships with others. We are introduced to many characters – the most striking, in my opinion, being Wes.
Truthfully, while I sympathized with Sam, I wasn’t a complete fan of her character. While I understand that she is fourteen years old and is, therefore, susceptible to immaturity and self-centered thinking, I still found myself annoyed with her every now and then. A few of her outbursts were, to me, really uncalled for, although I can just chalk them up to her paranoia. Also, I didn’t like how despite everyone’s insistence on how physically attractive she is, she deliberately ignores them and for the most part acts oblivious. When someone objectifies you, you don’t bat your little eyelashes, impersonate a doe’s innocent expression and go all, “What do you mean little old me is hot?” Still, one of the few things I admire about her is how she doesn’t abandon her old friends after moving to a new area. I think it’s sweet that in spite of everything, they continue to trade letters.
I would have liked to meet Robin though.
Wes, on the other hand, is my favorite character as he displays the most amount of depth out of them all. For someone who’s constantly being treated as the school’s king – what with being popular, athletic and hot, Angell succeeds in showing that he is more than that. While he is all those things, Wes is also sweet, thoughtful and intellectual, and he is battling his own demons. I found myself emotionally connecting with Wes as he struggles with the pedestal he was unwillingly placed upon.
As for the rest of the characters, I found Sam’s friends interesting. However, they depicted varying levels of shallowness. I particularly have mixed feelings about Clint. None of Sam’s friends, or the rest of the characters really, are as well-developed and as complex as Wes. Although the characterization in the novel was slightly off-putting, I really liked how the relationship between Sam and Wes played out! It was one of the things I greatly enjoyed reading about. I particularly liked how Wes instantaneously comforts Sam upon being informed of her stalker while the rest of the gang had speculations before fully going on board.
Speaking of the stalker, he is pretty much a shadow in the storyline. Rather than acting as the focal point of the story and piloting the plot, he is a rather ominous, lurking presence. His stalking Sam becomes a somewhat underlying theme throughout the book, only rearing its head occasionally but in incredibly bothersome ways. This, in turn, drives Sam into a state of anxiety and paranoia as she has no clue when his next move will be.
I don’t think Angell’s approach is a typical occurrence in YA stalker set-ups. In fact, in one of the author’s interviews, Heidi mentioned that some of her beta readers were expecting the book to be “creepier.” This only further solidifies my point. A lot of people’s perception of stalking is greatly misguided, which is why I find it extremely courageous of the author to spin a tale out of her own personal experiences. You read right. Hell School: Fresh Meat is based on true events that Heidi has gone through.
Personally, I’ve been a victim of stalking myself. More than once, truth be told. I don’t want to elaborate on these experiences for obvious reasons; however, one thing I learned from them is that even seemingly innocent gestures can be considered as stalking or a form of harassment. You don’t necessarily have to go as far as to climb up a person’s window to watch him/her sleep (shout out to my homie, Edward Cullen) to be labeled as a stalker. In this regard, Heidi demonstrates great skill in portraying the kind of realistic stalking that keeps readers constantly looking over their shoulders while immersing themselves in Sam’s story. Frankly, she totally drove it home through this particular scene with Wes:
The guidance counselor frowned at the two of them. She glanced at the candy grams again. “So it’s because you don’t know him that it makes you so uncomfortable?” She asked.
“It’s more than that. These are unwanted advances. He wrote that he wanted to shower her in kisses.” Wes snapped. He was obviously getting the same impression Sam was, that this woman didn’t seem to think that there was a problem.
The woman smiled thinly. “Trust me, I have seen people try to write worse things.”
“So, because it isn’t as bad as it could be, you don’t care?” Sam snapped.
“I didn’t say that I don’t care,” the guidance counselor responded calmly. “I am simply trying to understand what your concern is so that I can come to an appropriate action.”
Wes glowered at her. “My concern is that there is a student at this school making sexually suggestive advances on a young woman who is in no way interested. He is doing it in a very creepy way, and you do not seem to understand that this is a problem.”
YOU GO, WES!!!
Anyway. While I certainly enjoyed reading Hell School: Fresh Meat, I can’t deny that a number of elements were left to be desired. First and foremost, I struggled with the writing style as the storytelling in this book was just that – telling rather than letting actions speak for themselves. Secondly, the transition from chapter to chapter, and the overall flow of the story for that matter, wasn’t as smooth as I’d like. There were instances wherein I was left confused with the sudden jumps in time. Additionally, the large percentage of female characters who were boy-obsessed, shallow and constant participants in gossip didn’t sit well with me. For a novel that aims to handle such a controversial topic, it saddens me that an excessively used, prejudiced literary trope (i.e. one strong female lead in a gaggle of weak women) was interlaced into its storyline.
In spite of these things, I think Hell School: Fresh Meat finished with a pretty solid ending that sets up its sequel nicely. A sequel I wouldn’t mind reading. Despite the book’s flaws, I was kept engaged all throughout. Certainly, Angell’s take on stalking and how to deal with it is worth looking into.
Excerpt from the book:
“Creepy,” from Sam. “Yeah, I’m going with creepy… and gross,” she muttered. Sam scanned the other students in the courtyard. “I mean… it is so…”
“Sweet?” April looked at Sam like she had two heads. “You have some guy who is obviously really into you, writing you poetry and leaving you flowers! What girl wouldn’t love that?”
“Um, no. You have some guy who is fixated on your appearance, leaving you weeds.” Mike pointed out.
“Exactly!” Sam gesticulated. “I mean, maybe if I had a boyfriend who was writing me poetry and leaving me flowers that… could be considered romantic, or cheesy,” Sam gestured to Jill, in part agreeing with her. “But come on April. I don’t even know who is writing this. He is… writing me… porn? Does it sound like porn to anyone else?”
Review also available: Goodreads
CLOSING REMARKS & MISCELLANEOUS MUSINGS
I’m pretty sure I mentioned the book tour for Hell School more than a handful of times in my blog. I’m also pretty sure you’ve grown sick of it. But I honestly couldn’t help it! This is my first experience as an online book tour host! It’s an exciting thought.
With all that said, I’d like to extend my thanks to my good friend, Heidi, for inviting me on board this tour! This has been a very pleasant opportunity, and I’m beyond flattered that she wanted me to be a part of promoting her work. I think I’ve said this before, but Heidi was the first author to contact me via email. I also received my first review request from her back in December 21, 2015 – which was just four (4) days after I started blogging. Honestly, her gesture greatly contributed in motivating me to blog. She’s such a sweetheart.
Truth be told, as I was typing my book review, I sort of went completely off-tangent and focused on the concept and true nature of stalking. I had to delete multiple paragraphs and strongly berate myself to get to the point. It would be awesome if I could write all my thoughts down regarding it because really, I truly believe that people should be educated about what this issue really entails and how stalking psychologically affects a person, regardless of how “small” or “trivial” or “seemingly harmless” the actions they commit are. I’m not claiming to be an expert or anything, but I do have my own fair share of experiences.
One of the most unsettling things that I’ve ever experienced happened while I was traveling to my province via public transportation. Once I exited the jeepney, this strange guy followed me as I walked. He tried to initiate a conversation, told me I was pretty, asked for my name and then immediately asked for my number. Throughout our, quote, conversation, unquote, I never slowed down or stopped walking. Still, he was undeterred. It took a few more minutes for him to realize that I seriously wasn’t interested. Later that night, I received a Facebook message from him, apologizing for his creepy behavior and claiming that he couldn’t help himself because of how pretty my smile was. This, by the way, was even creepier as I had no idea how he was able to find me so easily! I mean, I get that he was saying sorry and everything, but let’s be honest, I knew nothing about this person. For all I know, he could’ve had an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda or was just being insincere! It was extremely bothersome.
What about you? Have you experienced anything similar, and what did you feel?
Oh and don’t forget to support Heidi Angell and her writing! Again, Hell School: Fresh Meat is available on both Amazon and Smashwords. You should totally get yourself a copy! Also, it’d be really cool if you checked out her other books. Aaaaand that’s it. Thanks for bearing with me! This concludes my first time hosting an online book tour.Advertisements