Gone are the Scumbags, Lowlifes, Dimwits and Nincompoops. The houses at Horrid High have been renamed. The school is no longer horrid. Ferg Gottin and his friends Fermina Filch, Immy Tate and Phil Fingersmith are back for another year at Horrid High, and they’re happier than they can remember ever being.

The school’s horrid principal and staff are gone. Kind Granny Grit is the new principal of the school, where the students are allowed to laugh, play and have fun. The children are no longer forced to eat disgusting meals, the house common rooms are now comfortable, inviting rooms, and the future looks bright.

Malo and Mallus Brace, identical twins, join Horrid High just when Granny Grit receives some news that sends her on an urgent trip to the Amazon for a week. Granny assigns the school bully, Volumina Butt, the duty of showing the twins around and leaves the paranoid sports teacher Colonel Craven in charge of the school. But things start to go wrong when Granny’s trip takes longer than anticipated. Someone is playing cruel practical jokes, and it’s up to Ferg and his friends to solve the mystery and save Horrid High from becoming truly horrid once again.

Payal Kapadia Horrid High Back to School 61FlZCtKDCL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Horrid High: Back to School is the sequel to the funny and heart-warming Horrid High by Payal Kapadia, and it’s difficult to read it without comparing the two. The theme of friendship is just as strong in the sequel. Ferg and his friends are undyingly loyal to one another, and they teach valuable lessons about trust, honesty, and appearances through their interactions with the Brace twins and Volumina. The book maintains the same light-hearted tone as Horrid High, making it enjoyable to read. But while Horrid High was almost difficult to put down, the same can’t be said about Back to School.

Apart from the Brace twins, the new characters in this book are mostly the staff brought in to replace the horrid ones from Horrid High. And while Kapadia has only focused on the ones integral to the story, these new characters slow down the plot. And just as the reader is enjoying the antics at Horrid High, the book suddenly switches to the point of view of the mysterious “hideous head,” who is still trying to put the Grand Plan from Horrid High in action. The back cover of Payal Kapadia’s book makes it seem like the Grand Plan is a big part of the story, but it is largely forgotten until the last 60 pages, making it seem like merely a device to tie the two books together.

But perhaps these are the gripes of an adult reader. Horrid High: Back to School is a story for kids aged 10 and older who are less likely to dissect the plot than just appreciate a book about a humorous school and a funny band of friends.

Shivani Shah, 12 May 2016