|The School for Good and Evil|
by Soman Chainani
"New York Times Bestseller * Indie List Bestseller * Soon to be a Film from Universal Pictures * A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2013 * Waterstones Children's Prize Nominee * Children's Choice Reading List Selection
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."
Hmmmm, I'm kind of torn about this one. Some people really love it, but I had kind of a love/hate relationship with it - with the hate part winning out. If I had liked the characters more it would have made a huge difference. It's hard to care about what happens to people when you don't like them anyway. I couldn't stand Sophie from page 1, and I had a hard time with Agatha because for a smart girl she acted very stupidly. The book was all about their amazing "friendship", but there really was no friendship. There was a mean girl and a groupie. The mean girl did all sorts of horrible things to the groupie, and yet the groupie still stayed loyal to the mean girl. I didn't buy it. And the concept of the book tried to say that what is on the outside doesn't matter, and yet several instances in the book proved that beauty made you "good", and ugly made you "bad". How wrong is it for me to say you could tell it was a story about girls that was written by a man? It is also way too long and took a long time to get going.
However, the actual story was original and fun (with many shades of Harry Potter noticeable). There was a lot of action, it was very humorous at times, and it eventually got very exciting. I think it will make a pretty great movie, and thought of it as a movie in my head while I was reading it. I have many middle schoolers who love it.
Areas of concern:
A lot of violence. Children are kidnapped, tortured, turned into animals.... The list goes on and on. However, it is all presented in such a fairy tale fashion, that it doesn't seem very real.
Several reviewers have mentioned that the book ends with a LGBT relationship, but I didn't pick up on that at all. I'm not sure what will happen in subsequent books.
Booklist - Grades 6-8
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11-13