Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good & Evil by Soman Chainani
The School for Good and Evil #1
Published May 14th 2013 by Harper Collins

“The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.”

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they 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 amongst 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…?
*An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

The School for Good and Evil - if you're anything like me, that title was all it took to get my attention.  So promising.  And then we have a breathtaking cover that I'm sure was designed and crafted by fairies themselves~!  If that's not enough, there's the fantastically descriptive blurb about magical schools where children are brought so that they can learn to be fairytale heros and villains...Gah O.O  ...impossible to resist....must...read...this...book...

*ahem*

So yeah, I was veeeery excited about The School for Good and Evil, from the moment I found out about it.  The story follows both Sophie and Agatha.  Sophie is the pretty blonde who dreams of being a princess and Agatha is the loner goth-type who has a cat and lives by a graveyard.  (three guesses which girl I liked best? hehe)  When they arrive at the school, it seems so obvious to both of them where each will end up but then, the opposite happens: Sophie ends up in the School for Evil and Agatha in the School for Good! Gotta be a mistake...right??

This kind of story is absolutely perfect for dual narratives not just because we got to know both girls but because there were two separate schools and we got to learn the traditions and history of both sides.  The story did seemed a bit more devoted to Sophie though which I can understand because she's very compelling, and her story arc is quite impressive.  Nevertheless, I would have liked to see Agatha equally developed since she was without a doubt my favorite of the two.

The School for Good and Evil makes great efforts to shake up the standards of your 'usual' fairytale. Beyond that truly beautiful and applause worthy-ending scene,  I was especially happy to see the role reversal of the two protagonist considering their described appearances.  As a young girl, I remember all the cartoons I loved featuring dark haired girls as villains and blondes as good and pure.  One even went so far as to have a girl villain show up with black hair but then she is 'cured' and made good and her hair actually changes from black to blonde to symbolize her goodness...or whatever.  Anyway, I just really wish that this book had been around back then because I think it would have made me very happy!

Despite efforts to shake up certain character archetypes, I found myself wishing that The School for Good and Evil had stirred things up even more.  Given the fact that it very much follows classic fairytales, I guess it was never going to be that kind of a story, but it didn't stop me from wishing that it might have been.  The way the girls in the School for Good acted towards the boys and alternately the way the boys appraised the girls did give everything a classic Disney princess feel, but it also felt a bit dated for fresh, new fairytale.

The actual Schools for Good and for Evil were filled to the brim with fairytale magic and inventive ideas, and some more familiar tropes.  I always love to geek out over magical class time-tables and schedules and I tend to get embarrassingly excited while discovering everything about magical schools, from the sleeping areas, to the classrooms, not to mention the hidden secrets these kinds of schools always have, buried away amongst hidden passages, mysterious classrooms and/or libraries...♥  Even though this is more of a fairytale world that a straight up magical world, it was truly inventive and enchanting which made it a blast to discover bit by bit. 

All things considered, The School for Good and Evil was an delightful and even adorable addition to the fairytale genre.  It might have benefited from being a bit more brief around the middle in exchange for some additional details around the ending there but nevertheless, when I was finished I went straight to Goodreads to add book # 2 to my TBR shelf and wishlist - I'm very curious to see where the story will go from here!  I'd recommend this book for fans of MG fairytales along the lines of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making or stories about magical boarding schools.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

9 comments:

  1. This book sounds delightful, Micheline. I'm certainly intrigued. I'm sorry it didn't shake things up as much as you'd have liked though. But I'm glad you'll give book 2 a shot. I'm going to add The School for Good and Evil to my TBR. :)

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    1. It really was cute and a lot of fun~ worth the read in my opinion even though I had some minor complaints :) Hope you'll enjoy it Brandee!

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  2. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this!! I listened to the audio and it was absolutely fantastic!! I thought that the audio really brought the story to life, and the narrator was amazing!

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    1. Ohh yeah, I remember you saying the audio version was really brilliant, maybe I'd have had even more luck if I had listened to it!

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  3. I'm on your side - the cover demands attention and I was caught up in wanting to read it from the first site of it. It does sound like its pretty good. I think I will keep it for sure near the top of my TBR. Great Review.

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    1. EXACTLY! I'm glad I'm not the only one who had that reaction to this cover! I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it Gina :)

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  4. I love the cover for this and the premise, too! There are quite a few middle grade titles that I've read as an adult that I wish had been around when I was a kid myself. Adding this to my TBR, and I've still got to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland as well!

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    1. I feel like the MG reads that come out now are of a much better quality than what I remember being around when I was a kid for some reason! I did like TGWCF more but both of them were well worth the read for me :) I hope you enjoy them both!

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  5. Heehee, Yeah I was SO stoked for this one when I first heard about it, as well. It just seems so ME, as well. My enthusiasm became a bit dampened when it seemed like not everyone was absolutely loving this one like I was hoping they would. It still definitely sounds fun - how could it not with a magical boarding school?? - and I also like that the hair colour stereotype is reversed here, but I would also like to hear that it pushed the envelope maybe a bit more. If only it were a bit more original and special - but maybe the sequel will raise the stakes a bit more! I'm definitely curious about this one, but I think I'll wait to see the reviews for the sequel before fully committing - thanks for this really informative review, Mich!

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