Sunday, October 12, 2014

Beyond School - Review

Beyond School centres upon the weeks leading up to 17-year-old Shail s final board exams, as his world becomes a pressure-cooker and the weight of preparing for the exams sends him fleeing rebelliously in the other direction. Along with Shail's journey from boyhood to manhood, Beyond School vividly weaves between the narratives of four main characters, seamlessly uniting the past and present of Shail, his parents-Urmila and Sushil and his mentor-Gladys, in a story that is honest, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately, incredibly human.

About the Author
Chitra Anand was born in Mumbai. She is a postgraduate in Physics and holds an Education degree. Beyond School is her first novel inspired by her journey as an educator.

‘Beyond School’ starts with a regular morning in school, but unfortunately the events that come to light on that morning makes it anything but ‘regular’. A sixth grade girl’s journal is brought to the attention of the teachers and the parents where she has mentioned about her attraction towards a boy. The poor girl is rebuked and scolded by one and all, except Gladys Assumption, who is the student counsellor. Question arises on the child’s character, as to how a young girl could write such things. ‘Unnatural’ and ‘bad’, is it?

Chitra Anand’s debut novel poses some smart questions urging the readers to answer. In the dawn of adolescence, a child undergoes various types of changes, both physical and mental. Needs and wishes change, dreams take a complete makeover, and an all – together new psychological approach is needed to nourish the kids. The notion of good and bad, and the importance of studies, alongside the benefits of extra - curricular activities should be taught to them. Parents, guardians and teachers have a key role to play in shaping up a child’s future.

All these aspects are very well reflected in ‘Beyond School’ through the protagonist Shail. He dreams of being a football star, but his lack of interest towards studies poses a big concern in the minds of his parents, Sushil and Urmila, considering the fact that his board exams are knocking wildly at the doors. Shail thinks of his father as a dictator who forces him to study all the time, and also usurps his mobile phone. However, the author successfully manages to portray different view points here. We get to know about Shail’s thinking and can sympathize with him, ‘cause we have all gone through the phase and trauma of being horrified with the board exams. Again, from another angle, we also understand the concerns of Sushil and Urmila, who want the very best for their child, and thus their strict nature is ably justified.

The narrative of the story is lucid, and has a smooth flow. While the first part of the story throws a lot of promise and successfully holds on to your attention, the second part turns out to be a bit clogged, with a lot of issues being dealt with at the same time. The fluent pace in the first half suddenly turns erratic in the second, while the feel – good factor too changes into a sombre hue.  There are moments in the first half when you feel like applauding the writer’s style, but unfortunately, nothing like that happens in the final half of the book.

The characterization is decently done, with almost equal coverage given to Shail, Sushil and Urmila. However, Gladys manages to win the hearts of the readers as a caring and understanding teacher who wants the very best for the students. The flashbacks related to her past, are hauntingly sad, and we get to know the hardships and the struggles she has had to cope up with. A character with a heart of gold, Gladys is the star of the book.

Beyond School’ is a book that will make you reminisce your childhood, guaranteeing a travel down the memory lane. It’s a tale that should be read by parents and teachers along with their child, nurturing the bond and understanding their needs. Only if the latter half would have been edited better and the sequence of events dug up in a more polished manner, this book would surely have neared brilliance.

Title: Beyond School
Authors: Chitra Anand
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
Publication Year: 2014
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Reality Fiction
ISBN -10: 9383562404
ISBN-13: 978-9383562404
No. of Pages: 201
Price: Rs 125
My Rating: 3/5

This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on to