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Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies by R.A. Spratt

Title: Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies

Author: R.A. Spratt

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 7th January 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: Headmasters behaving badly!

Headmasters behaving badly!

When four former headmasters arrive at Highcrest Academy to take part in the school’s anniversary celebrations, the students are warned to be on their best behaviour.

Unfortunately, no one told the headmasters to stay out of mischief too! Which means Friday Barnes soon has a case to solve. But unravelling the truth isn’t easy when the whole school is being forced to eat paleo because the cook is on a diet; her best friend’s brother won’t stop blubbering about the terrible boat accident he may or may not have caused; and Friday is being trailed by a mysterious admirer – or is it a stalker?

Can Friday find the facts among the mayhem? She’d better. The fate of Highcrest depends on it!

~*~

Headmasters and teachers are meant to be responsible, mature and nurturing educators, right? Many people will remember teachers they adored, or didn’t like, and those that made an impression upon us. And they were all responsible. Well, not so much at Highcrest Academy. A school filled with irreverent teachers, some who lack interest in teaching, and others who tackle their subject with a kind of sadism that even the Headmaster fears. This is counteracted by students like Melanie and Friday, Ian and Binky and many others who either don’t want to be there, or like Friday and Melanie, say it like it is and get away with it because they’ve managed to solve so many crimes around the school, the Headmaster, other teachers and students are aware of their reputation and either like them, or hate them. After surviving camp and finding an illegal mink trade ring, Friday’s been warned to stop finding mysteries, especially when the sesquicentenary comes around, and four former headmasters and headmistresses return to the school. But all is not as it seems as threats towards one or more of the headmasters arises. One disappears, one gets ill, another goes batty, and the other tries to run the school like he’s in the military, whilst the current headmaster tries to keep the school calm and enlists Friday to help him.

Friday becomes involved in investigating a plot to do away with one of the headmasters – but which one, and who is behind it? A parent? A teacher? Or a student? And why? Friday has returned from fourteen weeks in a school in Switzerland – to find a new student – Harrison Abotomey – has arrived. He always seems to be near Friday so is he a stalker or an admirer?

In true Friday Barnes fashion, she gets to work on solving the case of who is trying to get rid of the headmasters and why, and the implications for the school. The irreverence of the school is something that gives the book a fun and inventive tone, that captures how some students feel about school, what it is like to feel like a fish out of water, and what hijinks can happen at a boarding school, where education isn’t always about classrooms and books. It’s about social connections, and the application of knowledge in the real world. What a school – fraud, disappearing headmasters and all manner of schemes and plots to keep Friday busy and away from her studies.

This series allows kids to dream of what it would be like to have the teachers asking you for help or being able to say what you like to them, and being so smart, you’re only at school as an experiment to learn social skills, or about something you’re unfamiliar with. Friday’s world is one that is whimsical and serious at the same time, with an undercurrent of a young girl who just wants stability and somewhere she belongs, and can in some ways, fit in better than she has with her family. Those who’ve been reading Friday Barnes since the beginning will know this is important to her – it comes up when she feels unsettled. As the series heads towards books eight and nine, it will be interesting to see where Friday’s mystery and need to belong somewhere take us.

R.A. Spratt has combined school, mystery and friendship to create a series that will be loved by all readers aged nine and older, and gives kids and older readers who have never quite seen a heroine who isn’t perfect at magic or physical activity a chance to see someone who isn’t perfect, who has flaws and readily admits to them, and prefers books over sports or dating. It makes for a refreshing change to have a character like this who is also certain about many things yet uncertain about others occupying space on the shelf and in our imaginations.

Another excellent addition to the Friday Barnes series!

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