Book Review: School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

16248113Title: School for Good and Evil

Author: Soman Chainani

Genre: Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult, Upper MG

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.

Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are . . . ?

The School for Good and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

I loved the concept of The School for Good and Evil. Every number of years, two children from Sophie’s home town are kidnapped in the middle of the night. One is to go to the School for Good, a legendary school where fairytale princes and princesses roam. The other is to go to the School for Evil, breeding ground of trolls, witches and warlocks. Sophie, convinced she’s destined to be a princess, has been dreaming of the day she’ll get to go to the School for Good since forever. She’s done a lot of things to ensure her position there is secured, like taking up a somewhat-friendship with the most despised girl in town, a girl who all others call a witch, Agatha.

Agatha couldn’t care less about the School for Good and Evil. In all honesty, she thinks it’s a ruse made up by superstituous town folk. But her mother is convinced Agatha will get picked for the School for Evil, and so is Sophie. Agatha would like nothing more than Sophie to be her friend, but she’s not entirely certain if the girls’ intentions are all that well-meaning.

Then, one night, both girls get kidnapped. But to Agatha’s surprise and Sophie’s utter horror, a mix-up of some kind happens. Agatha gets put in the School for Good, where she looks more than a little out of place amidst the beautiful princesses and gorgeous princes. Sophie gets sent to the School for Evil, where she’s pestered by her fellow classmates who are confident she has no grain of evil inside of her. Sophie does everything in her power to make the mix-up right again, including secuding a prince she supposedly falls for, but even when they manage to notify the head master, he convinces them there’s been no mistake.

I liked the supposed mix-up (which I knew right away was no mix-up at all, because Sophie can be quite bitchy at times, whereas Agatha had her heart in the right place from the get-go) and how Sophie does everything to rectify it, only to find out there’s been no mistake at all. But even then, Sophie’s stubbornness continues. She refuses to adapt, even if it becomes clear her fellow classmates aren’t that bad after all and might end up accepting her in their midst. Sophie is eager to prove she’s the good one, going to great lengths, and not hesitating to hurt Agatha along the way, which is, so, so, so NOT the way good people act. Agatha is, no doubt in my mind, the best friend anyone could wish for. She’s loyal, willing to help, even if it means sacrificing her own grades or reputation, and she does everything she can to help Sophie, even if it ends up hurting her. If Sophie says or does something awful, Agatha forgives her, until the point where I was like “okay, girl, you tried, but it’s time to give up, you won’t be able to save this one”.

There are a bunch of cool additions to this story as well, like Uglification and Beautification class, which sounds plain awesome (of course Ugfliciation is for the School for Evil) and a bunch of other classes that are fun. The school kids call themselves “Evers” (the good ones) and “Nevers” (evil side) which was funny as well. Both main characters are well-rounded, each with their own unique personality and quirks. Agatha was by far my favorite, and I sometimes rushed to skip through parts about Sophie to get back to the parts about Agatha. I was cheering for Agatha from the get-go, and I wanted her to get the prince. Why? Because she’s so different from your usual fairytale princesses, who are all so magnificently good (or think they are) and who have no ounce of humanity in them. The princesses in the School for Good all had heaps of humanity though – they were all vain, convinced they were better than the rest, superficial, and sometimes downright annoying. Agatha was different, which made me like her even more.

I started liking Sophie the moment she began to grasp her true nature. The downside was that it took so long for her to understand what was right in front of her. She wasn’t good, she bordered on evil, but perhaps she could redeem herself – everyone is worth redeeming, and besides, it’s not like she’d done any life-threatening crimes – if only she figured that out sooner. But she was so thick-headed and stubborn, convinced she was better than everyone else.

The princes and love interests were boring. And real douchebags. Didn’t like a single one of them. If I had to pick one boy who was interesting and may be a good potential love interest in this book, then it would’ve been Hort. At least he had personality, didn’t change his mind every five seconds, and didn’t want to date a girl just because she was beautiful. Hort, by the way, belonged to the evil side, and he had more goodness inside of him than all those stupid, stuck-up princes of the good side.

In the end though, this book wasn’t about good or evil. It was about friendship, and how it can survive, even if it’s unlikely. It was about the friendship between Agatha and Sophie, and their friendship was special and inspiring.

Now, on to the good parts. Like I said, the characters were fun. Sophie could be annoying, but it suited her personality. Agatha had a great, wry sense of humor that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. Even the side characters were well-developed, with their unique personalities. The world-building was spot on, and you could see the author had put a lot of thought into the world itself, its lore, its history. The author is obviously very creative and imagnative as well.

The downside? The book is 496 pages, which is really long, especially for young adult or upper middle grade novels. And most of the time, the book read like it was going nowhere. The story had awesome potential, but that potential didn’t fully realize because the plot dragged on. Events that could’ve happened in fifty pages, took more than one hundred pages. The pacing was at times, fast, and at other times, annoyingly slow. Too many things happened that didn’t seem necessary for the plot, and only continued to drag down the pace. Chop off a good two-hundred pages, and this book would’ve been epic. As it stands, it has a great plot and awesome characters, good, visual writing, but the pacing is too slow and not enough happens to make up for that.

However, I enjoyed it, and I skipped through the parts that took too long. If the story sounds like something you would enjoy, you can use the same tactic. The story itself, the characters and the setting are definitely worth it. For fans of fairytales, this book is an excellent read. I stayed up till two o’clock at night to finish it, so that’s saying something.

Comments

  1. Alix Curns says:

    My 7-year old daughter just finished reading this book, and was all choked-up at the ending – in near tears (happy tears) trying to tell her mom & dad what happened. She said it was the best book that she’s ever read (and she’s read over 1,000). She gives it 7-stars out of 5-stars. She also said that she is not going to read another book until Book #2 comes out – we understand this will be a Trilogy? She started reading when she was 3, finished Harry Potter (book 1 only) when she was 5 – her prior favorite. Now as a 7 year old 3rd grader, it is hard for us to find good books that will absorb her. She is advanced reader for her age, and goes after the +300 page books intended for the 9-12 year olds. She’s been reading more and more ‘fact’ books on bugs, birds, animals, human body, science… so I was really happy that she dove back into a Fantasy Book so eagerly. She didn’t put it down at bedtime for nearly 3-weeks. So yes, I know that I am bragging like a proud parent of a top honor student, but I felt the need to highlight that she is more qualified than I am to “Speak Her Mind” about how much she LOVED this book… “School for Good & Evil”. We will eagerly await Book #2, assuming the Publisher moves forward with it… while she continues to Speak Her Mind about Book 1 to every friend, teacher, and social media outlet that she can find.

  2. I think it was really great. I read it fast because it was an easy read. It was very well written.
    4 stars

  3. I would agree that it is a really long book and takes about 75 pages to explain what could have been a detailed explanation in 30 pages but it is a nail bitter and keeps you going till the end.

    Rate: 4 1/2 out of 5

  4. Kira Walter says:

    I loved how the school for good and evil uncapped my potential to read books with trickier language and expanded my imagination. I adored how at every moment it felt like the climax. I have learned so much from the morals explained and it was a beautiful reading experience.

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