Thursday, August 22, 2013

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Release Date:
May 14, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher


“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…?

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


A fun middle grade fantasy with two strong female leads. Am I wrong in thinking that middle grade (not just middle grade) fantasy is frequently boy-focused? Everything from Harry Potter to Percy Jackson. I know there are girl leads in fantasy novels, but they seem overshadowed by boys.

There's a quote in Pride and Prejudice that sums up The School for Good and Evil well: "One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it." Sophie is the picture of angelicness (not a word, I know). Agatha is the poster child for wicked witches in training. But it soon becomes clear that reality is different. Sophie is selfish, manipulative, and does everything with an eye toward her own benefit. Agatha has hard edges, comes from a poor family, is full of sarcasm, but her heart is always in the right place.

It will be very clear to anyone reading this book that Sophie is appropriately in Evil and Agatha is properly in Good. The story isn't exactly subtle, but I still think the description of their characters is wonderfully drawn. We are shown the measure of each girl's character by her actions - we are never told who's good and bad.

The plot is convoluted and tries to do too much. There's the basic story of the boarding school and the every day lives of the Good and Evil students. There's the story of how the School came to be. There's the series of tasks pitting the Evil and Good students off one another as well as the concept of Good girls finding their One True Love. And there's the basic friendship between Agatha and Sophie and their goals either to get home or to sort out the mess in which they've found themselves.

I love the idea of The School for Good and Evil, but I had trouble staying connected to the story. For a middle grade book, it's very complex and has a rich backstory. Too much of a back-story perhaps. Chainani would have been better off spacing out some of the world building into future novels. Then it would be easier to get caught up in the adventures of Sophie and Agatha. I also wish it had been at least 100 pages shorter. Dragging, dragging, dragging.

The School for Good and Evil is a great idea. And I did like it. I loved the twist on traditional fairy tales, the focus on what makes a person good versus evil, and I especially loved Agatha. But it let itself wander in too many directions and I often fell off the path.

Rating: 3 / 5

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  1. Too bad on this one Alison! I'm not much of an MG reader but this book really appealed to me and it's a shame it just tried to do too much. I always have trouble with stories that meander in a myriad of different directions, so I'm going to pass on this one for now.

  2. I have seen this book around a lot. Make me curious. Thanks for sharing your great review.

  3. I've seen this book everywhere!!! I'm still on the edge of trying it....Hmm. Anyways, great review!
    Happy reading

  4. I enjoyed this story -- fun, even if it was obvious that the girls were in the correct place. I'm still not sure about the whole forest thing and how they're trapped but I rolled with it. I think I'd lean closer to a 3.5 with my rating but definitely agree with your assessment!

  5. I agree that less pages would've make this book much better, but I loved the concept and I liked the complexity :)

  6. I've heard mixed things about this. I'm glad you liked it :)

  7. I loved the focus on female characters here and the fairy tale elements. I agree it was a bit long but I still loved it.


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