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.
‘Beyond School’ is the story of a twelfth grade boy with a secret. Shail studies in an Indian school in Muscat and is due for his board exams. However, instead of studying, Shail spends time by sleeping, watching TV, and texting on his phone. His parents are at their wits end trying to get their son to study. Little do they know that Shail plans not to appear for his boards exams and pursue with his interest in football. Finally, as a last try, Shail’s parents contact Gladys, a counselor at Shail’s school regarding their son. Gladys comes into the picture and changes everything with her patience, experience and wits.
This is a coming of age book that has been handled in a very different manner from the usual potboilers. The plot is simple and almost predictable with a heartwarming quality to it. There are certain sub-plots that keep in rhythm with the main plot and add to the story. However the pace could have been faster. Shail is a typical boy of the modern generation who loves football so much so that he plans to give up his education in order to pursue his dreams. He is impatient and snarky, yet loveable. Gladys, on the other hand, is the kind of woman who can change lives for the better and students are lucky to have her around. I loved her practical and no nonsense approach.
The writing style of the author is simple and inviting. She has managed to intricately weave in the many issues of the society today and the many facets of modern youth into the story quite expertly. This is a book that is fun and educating at the same time.
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