ROOM 13 by Henry Garfield


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 Forget Up the Down Staircase. Room 13 really is the classroom from hell. Marilou McCormick's already wrestling nightmarish memories when she arrives at Drew Bailey Memorial High School in Julian, California. After all, her last boyfriend was killed by a werewolf. But the room she's been assigned to teach in--with its dark, gloomy walls, its blinds that won't open, and its baleful portraits of American writers that look as if they belong in a post office--would give anyone the willies. Gradually, in carefully calibrated stages, the room switches from passive- aggressive to full attack mode. Marilou's attempts to tear down the portrait gallery leaves her hands lacerated with paper cuts. The room's heater springs ominously to life even when the thermostat's turned down. The mice in the storage closet begin to put in appearances outside. Every plant Marilou brings in to liven up the place dies. Even more distressingly, Marilou's students start to act up--a little runt terrorizes his big dumb cousin, a black student shuffles and talks like a slave--and Marilou's colleagues begin acting a little funny, too. Luckily, Cyrus ``Moondog'' Nygerski, the new bus driver who's clocked driving the kids to school at 83 mph, has some experience with stuff like this (Moondog, 1995). Marilou will need every bit of his advice to battle Scott Lurvey, the late English teacher who's retired from life but not from Room 13--and who's using an ingenious, if amusingly literal, way of running his classes from beyond the grave. Marilou and Moondog even have time for a few after-hours sessions of their own, and their tender, improbable romance--Marilou greets the news that her new soulmate is a werewolf by sighing, ``I really don't know how to take you''--is the high point of this witches' brew of a book. A wooly screamfest that's also a backhanded tribute to the power of dead white male authors.

Pub Date: July 13th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15203-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1997