Saturday, April 11, 2015

"The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)" by Soman Chainani

I received this lovely paperback from a giveaway at My Addiction: Books' blogiversary (thanks Cari and Haley!). I'd heard a lot about this book on the blogosphere previously and was also intrigued by that beautiful cover. I knew when I was done reading it, my mom's class of middle schoolers would love having a chance at winning this book before they're out of school, so I would be able to giveaway-it-forward.

Most middle grade books like this one tend to focus on schools in an effort to make schools more exciting to the kids who have to attend them (ah, those days...). But for me, a free adult, no longer jailed by a teacher, these books often either A) bore me or B) remind me greatly of Harry Potter. In the case of this book, it reminds me greatly of Harry Potter, which isn't really the fault of the book- anything with a school, magic, and with a fast-paced storyline does.

The Plot:
Sophie dreams of becoming a fairytale princess at the School for Good, while her best friend Agatha doesn't believe in such nonsense... until the night they're both snatched from their town to be students there. But instead of Agatha going to the School for Evil, like her witchy appearance would suggest, she's sent to the School for Good, while princess-like Sophie gets stuck with the School for Evil. Will they ever be able to fit in in a school in which they clearly don't belong? Or will the Schoolmaster have other plans for them?

I developed an instantaneous hatred for one of the main characters, Sophie, after reading just a few pages. As far as I can tell, the author did this purposefully, but maybe other people actually liked her prissy ways and constant health-food-referencing, beauty-routinizing, and other frivolous habits. She's more likeable as the book continues, but be forewarned you may find yourself grinding your teeth and reaching for sugary-things to endure the first few chapters of her personality.

The problems I ran into with this book were mostly personality-based. I was always a tomboy as a kid, and you couldn't sell me on boys that put worms in my hair being remotely attractive. Dresses, pink, and anything prissy were on my loathe list during the age Sophie and Agatha were in this book, and you cannot convince me all the girls would wear dresses ALL the time as students of the Schools do. Sure, they go to a private academy- I went to one too, but we had the option of pants, and 90% of the time, every single girl in our private school was wearing itchy polos and khakis to avoid having to wear an irksome jumper with Peter-Pan-collared shirt. Sophie changes up the clothes in this book, but still... pants. Girls wear pants, even when you want them to wear feminine fripperies. This book also needs a better tomboy-elect than Agatha.

The School for Good and Evil is something I would've probably liked better in my school years, but it was nonetheless an entertaining read. It's easily devourable, taking me only a few days to read it, even while enduring my first reading slump of the year. The only areas I didn't approve of consisted of some of my nitpicks, and I have a feeling most people wouldn't even notice the parts of the story that drove my rating down. If you love a good fairy tale, and ever wonder at how they might be made, The School for Good and Evil may be the book for you.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a solid middle grade fairy tale re-imagining!

Content: Fairytale violence and darkness (and one mild swear word). The back cover recommends this for Ages 8-12, but I say 8+.

Page Count: 488 pages in the paperback edition.

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