The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy
Diane Stanley

It’s an incredible opportunity: a boarding school for the most bright and brilliant stars willing to offer a family full tuition for their three children because of one daughter’s potential. A gorgeous campus, amazing mentors, and vitamin filled yummy brownies served every day at lunch!

Franny is an ordinary kid, impulsive, goofy, and awkward, and she knows she’s only at Allbright because of her little sister. But it doesn’t preclude her making new friends with self described “hybrid” poet Brooklyn, sad parentally abandoned Calpurnia, and even condescending Prescott. And after a few months at her new school she’s seeing life in a new way: her mother’s home cooking is incredibly fattening and artery clogging, her best friend’s sloppy hair defines others first impressions of him, and she’s constantly concerned with politely deferring topics that make her remotely uncomfortable. Calpurnia (Cal) (joining the family for the holiday) is now perky and no longer worried about her absentee father. Oh, and the poet? He’s now going by Brook and working on non-fiction.

Franny doesn’t want to believe her best friend Beamer when he says she’s changed, seeing only her new opportunities because of the school. But after they get back from the horrors of Thanksgiving meal (in all it’s triptophan glory), Calpurnia’s appendicitis kills her appetite and she comes to the realization that once she stops eating the brownies, she feels differently. It’s now up to this foursome of eighth graders (assisted by Beamer) to figure out just what’s in the brownie mix and to figure out who is in on the scheme to create “perfectly Allbright” leaders.

This was an enjoyably quick read. Franny is allowed to shine, despite not being the star child of the family and her friends are given time in the spotlight. Franny doesn’t make the initial discovery of what’s going on with the brownies, and it takes a lot of teamwork to lead up to the big reveal. Along the way there are some helpful adults and Franny’s parents get points for trying to give their children opportunities but not ready to abandon their children. (I’d say brownie points but that’s just an unnecessary pun.)

In the end one doesn’t seem boarding schools or specialized education as the problem, but a few minds who tried to go too far. Emphasized is a need for individuality, personality, emotions and friends. Highly recommended for those who like mystery and those who might not be interested in the more common fantasy boarding schools (dragons, etc…).