Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Summer Challenge: The School For Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (Middle Grade)

The only thing I liked about this book was the cover. And I admit, I judged this book by it’s cover and had pretty high expectations for it, especially considering the book has won approximately five awards and will soon be made into a film by Universal Pictures. I was disappointed enough by its slow plot, horrible, flat characters, and young reading level to abandon it around the 200th page. The School for Good & Evil was not even worth finishing. 

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Series: The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance

Rating: 1.5 stars (abandoned)

Description:

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.

Book Review:

The only thing I liked about this book was the cover. And I admit, I judged this book by it’s cover and had pretty high expectations for it, especially considering the book has won approximately five awards and will soon be made into a film by Universal Pictures. I was disappointed enough by its slow plot, horrible, flat characters, and young reading level to abandon it around the 200th page. The School for Good & Evil was not even worth finishing.

My biggest issue with this book, and the reason I abandoned it halfway through, was that nothing made sense. Yes, this also means that a lot of it wasn’t predictable or typical fairy tale, but it also seemed like none of the events had a reason (which I also realize is hard to judge since I didn’t read the ending). The things that happened and the realizations made by the characters just didn’t line up, and most of them were confusing and seemed to lead in very different directions. I love surprise plot twists, but the normal flow of the plot needs to be somewhat understandable!

The characters in this book were horribly immature, and extremely difficult to like. Sophie especially was vain, stubborn, and didn’t seem to understand a thing about her situation, which was way behind both the reader and her best friend, Agatha. I didn’t like Agatha any more, and certainly couldn’t understand why she was so loyal to her “friend” Sophie.

You’d expect the two girl’s experiences in their opposite schools to be somewhat parallel, considering this is a lower level book, and that it often the typical choice, especially in fairy tales with tiles like The School for Good & Evil. Luckily, this was not the case, but the truth was not much better. Instead, their school lives seemed random, and there was no way of knowing what consequences their actions would bring, or where in the plot it would lead them.

There isn’t too much I can say about this book because I didn’t actually finish it. I usually don’t review books not even worth completing, but since it was part of my middle grade genre summer challenge, and I wanted to share my disappointment, I decided to have a go at it. Kate also listened to most of the audiobook, but didn’t finish it either. Here are her comments:

Kate’s Comments:

This book is more like The Book for Boredom and Slowness. I got into it more than Gwen, listening to most of the audiobook until the end of it malfunctioned and stopped playing. But with a book I enjoyed, I would get it out at the library to finish it. This one was just not worth the effort.

The plot was very repetitive, and the character’s motivations were strange. Sophie was trying to prove she was good, and Agatha was just trying to stay in the school and get to her best friend. In this way, it seems like two entirely different stories, and the way that it was written was even more confusing, switching back and forth without warning.

Genre Review: Middle Grade

If all the stupid dead ends were removed from this book, it’s 488 pages could easily be shortened to a typical fairy tale picture book. The middle grade writing style of this book was boring, confusing, and never seemed to get to the point. I think Soman Chainani needed a better editor to make this book a picture book, because it’s typical (yet utterly atypical at the same time) fairy tale stereotypes (good vs. evil!) would probably entertain a young child more than an 8-12 year old.

Have you read this book? What did you think — did you like it better than Kate and I did?

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