The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

Young readers are sure to eat up Nikki Loftin's debut novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, a feast of magic and mystery.

Lorelei, named after the spirit of German legend by her recently deceased mother, was raised on fairy tales. As a result, she believes her new "stepmonster" is a witch, unaware that trouble brews close by with someone else stirring the pot. Splendid Academy, a brick building equipped with carousels and rock-climbing walls, is built in three days. Lorelei suspects it's "too good to be true," but is nevertheless excited to attend this charter school after her own school mysteriously burns down the day after Splendid Academy's completion.

Nikki Loftin's modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel takes readers out of the woods and into Splendid Academy, where students grade themselves, have two snack times, and golden bowls of endless candy are inside their desks. But something's wrong--beyond Lorelei's rude teacher, Ms. Morrigan, with her cold "popsicle-temperature" touch. Andrew, a "really, really fat boy," who acts as the Hansel to Lorelei's Gretel, warns Lorelei about the burning hunger that seems to result from Principal Trapp's regulated feedings of Splendid's sinister sweets--and the investigations begin.

The sprinkling of Roald Dahl creepiness with peculiar, cannibalistic adult characters is the icing on a cake baked with a take-charge heroine, subtle references to the seeds of childhood obesity and lesser-known Greek mythology. This smart, enchanting book will leave readers hungry for more by this first-time author. --Adam Silvera, reviewer and former bookseller

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