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Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High

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Worth reading 😎

Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High is a unique twisted tale that appeals to a new generation of readers

Synopsis

In the over-the-top tradition of the old-time penny dreadful, the story of crusading high schooler Todd Sweeney and smart-as-a-whip girlfriend Nellie Lovett unfolds: when vile guidance counselor Ashford Squeers wants to put Todd's best friend, Toby, in gay conversion camp, Todd swings into action. He just swings a bit too hard. So he calls on lovely Nellie to help clean up the mess. She devises an ingenious way of making the body disappear. But, more threats arise, as they always do. Soon, the police are wondering where Fleet High's worst are disappearing to. Our friends are on their way to a thrilling denouement that includes blackmail, abduction, nun costumes and a trip across the country before Todd and Nellie must finally leave Toby and his boyfriend to fend for themselves.

 I am a big fan of Sweeney Todd, so I was excited when I was granted the opportunity to review Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High. This retelling presents a teenage Todd Sweeney whose motive is avenging his gay friend, Toby. Sweeney Todd has always been a deeply political penny dreadful, and I appreciated how David Pratt honored this by considering the challenges that teenagers face in the politics of high school. Pratt took a beloved character and created a tale for him that introduces his story to a new generation, but appeals to adults as well.


David Pratt's writing format follows the classic vein of a penny dreadful, but I did find that his dialogue could be hard to read at times. He overuses exclamation points, which detracts from the story and made it harder for me to read consistently. While I did love Pratt's imagination and his ability to recreate a classic story in a new light, I would have liked to see more realistic punctuation to improve reading quality.


Overall, Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High is a fun, thrilling ride that appeals to both young adults and adults. David Pratt put his own spin on a classic penny dreadful while honoring the original tone and story. If you are a fan of Sweeney Todd or vengeful teenagers, then Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High will be a treat for you.

Reviewed by

Ashley Nestler, MSW is a multi-genre author, poet, and mental health expert. She is also an educator in writing and publishing and specializes in romance, science fiction, and horror. Ashley can often be found holed up in her room reading horror romances unapologetically.

Synopsis

In the over-the-top tradition of the old-time penny dreadful, the story of crusading high schooler Todd Sweeney and smart-as-a-whip girlfriend Nellie Lovett unfolds: when vile guidance counselor Ashford Squeers wants to put Todd's best friend, Toby, in gay conversion camp, Todd swings into action. He just swings a bit too hard. So he calls on lovely Nellie to help clean up the mess. She devises an ingenious way of making the body disappear. But, more threats arise, as they always do. Soon, the police are wondering where Fleet High's worst are disappearing to. Our friends are on their way to a thrilling denouement that includes blackmail, abduction, nun costumes and a trip across the country before Todd and Nellie must finally leave Toby and his boyfriend to fend for themselves.

CHAPTER ONE


A mother and a son reunited—A deeply affecting scene of maternal and filial affection—Yet dark forebodings impinge upon the tender scene


“Squeers? Came after you?” Todd stiffened. “Oh, Mother! Oh, I’ll get him! I promise you, I will—”

“Shush, Todd!” Mrs. Sweeney patted her son’s broad back—the son returned at last, after a lonely and desperate year. “He never actually did anything!”

“To think of that thing even coming near you!” Todd’s eyes filled with tears. “‘Guidance counselor!’ I’d like to guide his—”

“Todd!”

“I’m sorry, Mother.” He slumped. His sweater hung loose. She could see how much weight he had lost. Yet he had gained muscle. “I should have been here to protect you. Mom, I’m so sorry!” His shoulders began to shake; he covered his tear-stained eyes with his large hand. “I’ll get him!” he snarled. “I’ll get that bastard—”

“Sh-sh-sh,” his mother said, rocking him. “It wasn’t your fault. We’ll just be grateful you’re home from”—she made a face—“‘boot camp.’ And that they agreed I could send you to that private place. It was maybe a little more civilized.”

“Only ’cause you used your social-work connections and paid for it yourself!” Todd cried. “You had to sell all our—” His handsome, stricken face looked around their once cozy living room, stripped of its old, familiar heirlooms. “Mom, I swear I’ll make it up to you.”

She took his face in her hands, felt the rough stubble, and looked into his dark, vulnerable eyes. Her own eyes, deeply set in her sweet face, more lined than a year ago, pled with him. “Darling, there is nothing to make up. We know Squeers lied. You never should have been sent away. You’re an honors student and just a pillar of Fleet High! But once you were sent away and Squeers started coming around, we knew why he did it!”

“Mom: did he ever actually touch you?”

“Todd, please.”

“He did, didn’t he? I’ll get that—”

“Todd! We’re not going to ‘get’ anyone. It’s over. We’re going back to how things were.” Her fingers played absently with a hole in her sweater, trying to patch it over with the loose strands of yarn. “You’ll finish school with all A’s and go to college, and it will be as though Squeers never existed.”

Tears glistened in Todd’s eyes. He saw what the ordeal had done to his mother. Her hair grayer, the spark in her eyes dimmed. She would never be the same. It reminded him that someday she would die, just as his father had, and he couldn’t bear it. “Mom?” His voice trembled. “You know, before Dad died, he held me in his arms.” He put his arms around his mother. “And he made me promise to take care of you.” Mrs. Sweeney looked down, her sunken cheeks soft in the lamplight. “But we can never go back to how it was. I trust no one now!”

“Todd,” she sighed, resting her face against the top of his head, “you’re such a good son. Your father would be proud of how you handled all this adversity and how you take care of me.” Her chin quivered. “I put flowers on his grave and I said, ‘Richard, don’t you worry. We’re bearing up, Todd and I.’” Her voice broke. “And if it’s winter, I say, ‘Stay warm, Richard.’ It’s silly, but I still like to worry about him.”

Todd quietly cried.

“He loved you so much. From the second he saw you. You were the most special thing.”

“I love you, too, Mom. Always.”

“And you are as pure and beautiful as you were the second we laid eyes on you, Todd Sweeney. And now, I want you to get some sleep! Senior year starts next week!”

“I think I’m going to take a little walk, Mom. You know, look at the old neighborhood. If I go to bed now, I’ll just worry.”

“Well, don’t be too long.”

“I won’t.” He rose and put on his jacket. “I promise.”

She stood and came to him and fixed his collar. “And don’t you worry. I told Squeers I had no interest, and he went away. Now, we’ll just take care of each other.”

“That’s right, Mom.” But he sounded distant.

She went up on tiptoes to kiss him. “Whatever’s making you angry, Todd, just forget about it. Pray for it to go away, and it will. You have a nice walk now. I’ll listen for you to come in.”

“Sure, Mom.”

After a last hug and kiss, he stepped out into the night air. From their broad, deep porch he listened to the creep-creep of crickets. Beneath his feet the boards, paint peeling, suddenly cried. Petunias overflowed baskets. Soon they’d be gone, and she’d put out bittersweet. As though either could really help. He stepped to the edge.

Then down he dove into the stillness and silence. From the auras of street lamps he stole looks into the shadows. What waited there? And what move was it about to make?

About the author

David Pratt is the author of the novel "Bob the Book" (2010, Lambda Literary Award winner,) and a story collection, "My Movie" (2012), a novel "Looking After Joey," and a young adult novel, "Wallaçonia." David has performed his work for the theater in New York City and in Detroit. view profile

Published on April 02, 2019

Published by Hosta Press

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: LGBTQ (Fiction)

Reviewed by

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