Borstal Boarding School

23 May

One think that might have been missed by my readers is that I went to boarding school – and I hated every last minute of it. The experience pretty much left permanent scars on my soul. This may seem odd, seeing the boarding school in Schooled in Magic is a pretty good place, but it’s true.

So it got me thinking about alternate ideas, including one that might serve as a carathis of sorts.

It’s 2040. The economic crash put a far-right government into power in the United Kingdom. It’s basically a version of the early years of Hitler’s Germany, complete with increasingly mad leader, a police state and death camps for the unwanted. Among other things, the government has set up a series of borstals – boarding schools/jails for young men and women who are apparently too ill-disciplined to be allowed in normal schools.

Our hero does something stupid – I’m torn between playing a prank that goes badly wrong or being caught shoplifting or something equally stupid – and gets sent there in lieu of jail. He thinks it’s a great adventure until he actually gets there, whereupon he discovers it’s a boarding school of horrors, the teachers are sadists, the other kids are worse and they’re basically in prison until they learn to toe the line. It isn’t unknown for kids to die there.

So he eventually starts a revolution against authority that provokes a massive reaction from the government. I’m torn between them having a happy ending or a downer as most of the kids die …


28 Responses to “Borstal Boarding School”

  1. Per G Jönsson May 23, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    I really DO like happy endings..hint hint.

  2. Björn Paulsen May 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Hm. Like the idea, not sure about the name — although to underscore the futility and oppression of the system I suppose it could be an acronym for something bland but horrific, something like “Boarding Remedial School (Training and Labor)”.

    One would also have to take care not to make it too much Hunger Games or Battle Royale, which may be harder than it seems.

  3. Daniel Silver May 23, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I too like the idea, I’d say don’t go happy ending. Either make it a bitter sweet ending, the character survives but those around him die and for what? Or just let the government win if you want a really realistic ending, ala Waco.

  4. woodytx May 23, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    His prank is selfish and short-sighted. Shoplifting. Fraud. Vandalism. His rebellion starts as a big F-U to the school’s authority, but the harsh reaction by the authorities makes him take stock of his life. Using the resources of the school (courtesy of a few rebellious/subversive staff members) to learn about history and lost freedoms, he starts using his little gang to take a more principled stand. As the stakes are raised, cracks start showing in the general society, and the school rebellion becomes a microcosm of society in general.

    We see him evolve, working his way to maturity and making hard decisions on the way. We see the various factions in the school react to the increasingly hostile environment, some becoming disenchanted, others becoming increasingly controlling, and some apparently switching sides. We see the pendulum of society start to swing the other direction, against the resistance of those in charge.

    • Gabrielle May 25, 2014 at 2:31 am #

      Oh, like that.

  5. Bob G May 23, 2014 at 7:47 pm #


    Hitler was a NAZI, National Socialist German Worker’s Party, the right of the socialist spectrum, not Right Wing. Franco with his King & Country was Right Wing.

    May I suggest getting caught mocking one of the Nomenklatura be the triggering event.

    I too like inspiring happy endings.

  6. rhinorog May 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Crush the insolent bastards under the hobnailed boot heel of the glorious leaders forces.

  7. Gary F. York May 24, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    Perhaps I’m the only one who actually hates this idea — with either ending. Though, admittedly, I’d find the happy ending more palatable, neither actually piques my interest.

    I know you’ve previously considered educational reform; this bad boarding school theme is just one ‘small’ issue that needs to be addressed. I suspect a novel that addressed the rather serious problems that plague even the ‘good’ schools along with the exceedingly bad would garner a stronger readership. Even mine. 🙂

    • Per G Jönsson May 24, 2014 at 6:40 am #

      I would not go as far as to say hate but I do side with you in that the story as it is described does not exactly fall into my sphere of interest.

    • chrishanger May 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      I was thinking more of a YA novel rather than a political novel, but we will see. Chris Date: Sat, 24 May 2014 04:15:51 +0000 To:

      • Per G Jönsson May 24, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

        I hope I did not offend you above but you did ask for feedback. If you feel this is the story you want to write then of course you should write it regardless if it falls into my “sphere of interest”.

      • chrishanger May 24, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

        I don’t mind . I’ve just noticed I have Sci-Fi fans and Fantasy fans and they don’t always meet. Chris Date: Sat, 24 May 2014 19:05:01 +0000 To:

  8. Ian_B May 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I hate this Idea. Government of any totalitarian stripe, Fascist or Communist, if its efficient, will not leave your stupid/careless protagonist alive if he chooses to resist/rebel against being reformed. That said, It’s your story and you can write whatever you like. I just wouldn’t buy this one.

  9. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    My thoughts. First, I don’t like “everybody dies” endings (ie the good guys lose). Second, a successful revolt against the school is unlikely and (as others have said) would result in the Government killing the “winning” rebels.

    However, what might work is that there are existing cracks in the Government’s control and the revolt against the school authorities (successful or not) starts the process of the destruction of the totalitarian Government.

    Oh, the actions of the school authorities may be part of the overall Government’s attempt to keep the dissatisfaction under control and/or suppressed.

    So your story may turn out to be about a young man’s changing from a passive “subject of the State” into an active/successful rebel against the State (not just against the school authorities).

    That is, the first part of your story would be about the rebellion against the school authorities with your Main Character escaping the State’s reaction to his revolt against the school. After his escape, he either joins existing Rebels (IMO more realistic) or creates a Rebel organization intended to over-throw the State.

    Of course, since the State just controls the UK, your rebels against the State may have support from outside the UK.

    • chrishanger May 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

      I think I’d aim for a bittersweet ending rather than anything else. Of course, I could always drop the evil government part of the idea. Have the hero sent to a reform school rather than jail, then have the problems at the school be caused by stupidity rather than malice. (Although I am firmly convinced that some teachers I know beat Snape for sheer bloody-minded unpleasantness.) Chris Date: Sat, 24 May 2014 14:35:19 +0000 To:

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

        “Leaving out the evil government” is likely the best way to take this story. With the “evil government” you have two foes for your character to fight. The minor foe (the school) your character might win against but the major foe would be a greater challenge and thus IMO should be the major part of the story not fighting the school.

  10. Damian Stawiński May 25, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    Sounds interesting. And I agree with Paul. “Leaving out the evil government” is good idea.

  11. Gabrielle May 25, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    Happy/hopeful ending. If it’s going to be a downer ending give warning somewhere so I know not to read it. (IE. I would’ve waited til sequel out before I read Retreat Hell if I’d known how it was going yo end. That said the title was a pretty big hint)

  12. wraithtirteen June 13, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Maybe do a government more like the soviet union right before the fall. Maybe the government has had a habit of taking children to a boarding school for minor crimes in order to brain washing them to be the most loyal soldiers. Your main character gets arrested and sent there and before his brain washing is complete the government falls and now he brings the brainwashed people back to reality. Of course during this time the teachers go from cruel to insane.

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