Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Things Are Not What They Appear

Published:  May 14th, 2013
The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)
By: Soman Chainani
ISBN-13:  9780062104892
“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…?
     Sophie and Agatha aren't really even friends.  Sophie has taken Agatha on as her charity case, a good deed to make herself look better.  Because Sophie is expecting to be kidnapped by the schoolmaster, for the mysterious School for Good.  Agatha doesn't believe that the schoolmaster really exists or the School for Good and it's brother, the School for Evil.  Until they both get taken away that is.  And even more shocking, Agatha is sent to Good and Sophie is sent to Evil!  Trying to figure out what went wrong, Sophie hates Agatha for betraying her and does everything she can to scheme her way into School for Good.  But Agatha begins to wonder if she doesn't really belong at Good and if things are always as easy as what they appear to be.  Can the girls figure out who they are, their places in each other's lives and manage to not entirely destroy the structure of fairy tales in the process?
     I really enjoyed the concept of this book.  Two separate schools, one for good and one for evil, that train the heroes and villains from fairy tales.  Two girls, one inherently good and one with great capacity for evil.  But which one is which?  I liked the focus on friendship, but at the same time I felt like there wasn't much of a friendship to base things on.  Sophie is using Agatha, and she knows it.  So it felt really messed up when Agatha refused to let go of Sophie and insisted on acting like her friend, even when Sophie completely blames her for them being at the "wrong" schools.  And when the Prince starts paying attention to Agatha, all Hell breaks loose.  I guess in a classic fairy tale sense, it does seem like the right plot twist to have Agatha refuse to let go of the 'friendship' (due to her goodness and purity of spirit, etc.),.  It definitely doesn't make the characters much more than one-dimensional though or give them real room to grow out of their stereotypes. 
     The respective schools are full of the normal witches, hunchbacks, princes, princesses and lackeys of both good and evil persuasions.  We get to know witches in training, Anadil and Hester, and on the other side Prince Tedros, who Sophie becomes obsessed with.  There are others, but none that really distinguished themselves.  My main complaint about this book would be that it takes a really long time for anything to actually happen.  Once stuff does start happening, I feel like the author rushes through it sloppily.  At almost five hundred pages long, it definitely could have been paced better and Sophie's complete descent into evil could have taken longer and been more realistically written.  She goes from being somewhat stupid, airheaded and obsessed with manipulating her way into Good, to an evil mastermind and the most powerful witch ever.  Even the teachers are terrified of her!  The ending was abrupt and the simplicity of the characters, holes in the plot and overall youngness of a lot of it make this an awkward splice of YA and Middle Grade.  Overall I enjoyed myself, and I'm not going to say much more because I don't want to spoil it.  There were some issues with it though and I do think it's more appropriate for middle school and early high school readers than older teens and adults. 
VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

1 comment:

  1. I have a copy of this lying around somewhere I have to get to. Love reading your thoughts, good to know it's more on the younger side of the spectrum, that'll lower my expectations so I'll still be able to enjoy it :)


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