Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil

This book felt like a charming dog that suddenly decided to chomp into my leg viciously and wouldn’t let go. The School for Good and Evil is another one of those books that is too brilliant, modern, and/or convoluted for my feeble brain. The standard storytelling structure of just one or two climaxes is tossed out the window, and instead, this book shows off twists and turns like no plot has ever done before. The intriguing and magical premise is overshadowed by a plot that took a mind of its own and wouldn’t just let the story END.

Introduction

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…?

Discussion

GOOD: The premise is awesome. This “training at a school for fairy tales” trope is amazing, and I was debating between starting this one or Shannon Hale’s Ever After High – but of course, this book has the prettier cover! 😋 Just the first sentence sent delightful shivers down my spine:

Sophie had waited all her life to be kidnapped.

BAD: I struggled with empathizing with the characters. I don’t know how to feel when, just a few pages into the book, I’ve already started to not like one of the main characters. I think the book summary hints at the fact that Sophie and Agatha are not really who we expect them to be, and I would understand if my opinion of them changed over the course of the book – which they do – but I didn’t expect to dislike a main character for the majority of the book. The relationships in the book are kind of screwed up, and man, are these kids HARSH with each other! I had a hard time empathizing with the characters’ issues because it seemed like they were bent on tearing each other apart.

GOOD: Plot twist #1 was expected and the ensuing chaos was entertaining. Obviously, Sophie and Agatha end up at the opposite schools by mistake – Sophie lands in the School for Evil, and Agatha in the School for good. It was funny see them trying all sorts of things to get to the other side, and it’s incredibly funny (although in a cringe-worthy kind of way) how the other students reacted to them.

Hester looked up at Agatha. “She flooded our floor.”

“To do her makeup,” said Anadil.

“Whoever heard of anything so evil?” Dot grimaced. “Song included.”

BAD: Plot twist #500 was unexpected and the ensuing chaos made my head hurt. Okay, so #500 is an exaggeration, but by the end of the book, I had no clue who or what to believe. The pacing is incredibly fast at the end, and there was hardly time to process all the imagery and the action that took place. One of the final scenes was SUPER COOL, but I had to do a double-take because it was a “WTF JUST HAPPENED” moment. I wanted reasons, and I feel like I didn’t get any.

And ending on a GOOD note: Many aspects of school-building are beautifully done. The beauty of having two opposing schools is the symmetry that arises from it – the Nevers take classes like “Uglification” and “History of Villany”, while the Evers take classes like “Princess Etiquette” and “Animal Communication”. The school rules are opposing: “The Evil hurt. The Good help.” Class ranks hover over each student’s head – the most evil/good are 1’s, while anyone lower-ranked gets a higher number. And the map of the schools and the sketches of cauldrons, swords, and creatures throughout the book are so detailed and pretty.

Conclusion

Overall, I really liked Chainani’s writing style and the premise of The School for Good and Evil, but I couldn’t empathize with the characters and I didn’t enjoy the plot. Also, for a middle grade book, this story is surprisingly violent…

Have you read The School for Good and Evil?
Would you want to go to The School for Good or The School for Evil?

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2 thoughts on “Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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