I love a good school story. Partially because I believe it takes me back to the magical first time I read Harry Potter. Partially because I wish my high school experience could’ve been so ____ (fill in the blank with badass, adventurous, world-saving, ect.) So a school book about a female Death immediately caught my attention. School of Deaths is a YA Paranormal available now. The sequel, Sword of Deaths, will be released in June.
Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.
As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
Here’s a short excerpt for you:
She looked around. They stood in an alley, with gleams of starlight visible above them. Flies buzzed over a trash can, overflowing with pizza boxes. A cool breeze blew candy wrappers across the pavement, to graffiti-covered walls. Behind her, a cement building rose, with barred windows. In front of them, a larger street met the alley, with part of a neon sign glowing around the corner. It smelled like urine.
She heard shouts in Spanish from a dilapidated cement building with iron bars. More shouts and someone pleading. Then a gunshot and the shouts moved away from them.
A young girl staggered into the alley. Suzie was about to speak, but Frank shook his head.
The girl fell onto her face, a pool of blood leaking out from under her. In the distance, Suzie heard another gunshot.
“We have to help her,” said Suzie.
“It’s too late,” said Frank.
The girl lay motionless. Time seemed to stop. Suzie had never witnessed someone’s death. Who was this girl? Who had shot her?
Even as the questions started to form in her mind, the girl sat up and stared at them. Suzie started to move, but Frank grabbed her arm, holding her.
“Where am I?” said the girl.
She was sitting up, but she was also laying face first on the ground. The sitting girl looked at Billy with terrified eyes and struggled to her feet. Suzie realized they were each wearing black robes; even with their training badges, they must look frightening. Billy still held the scythe.
“Is this a joke?” said the girl. “I’m not dead—”
“You are,” said Billy.
The standing girl had no gunshot wound in her chest. Her dress seemed to shine as she moved a step away. She never looked down at her own body, or the blood continuing to run.
“Who are you three?” asked the girl.
“We’re in training,” said Billy. Suzie admired how calm his voice was. He was cool and collected, while she wanted to yell.
The girl took another step back and tripped on something. She tried to get up again but Billy held up a hand.
“Please,” he said. “Allow me.”
He raised the scythe and let it fall. The girl screamed, and Suzie screamed as well.
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Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.
Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.