Monday, July 8, 2013

ARC Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Title: The School for Good and Evil
Author: Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
Very nice, if a little cutesy.  I understand that it is middle grade, but I usually prefer for these books to have an appeal to older students as well.  The background images are beautiful and the crest and banner title are very well done.

The Gist:
For hundreds of years, the children of Gavaldon have been going missing.  Every four years, two at a time, one beautiful and one ugly.  After a time, the children of the town realized that these former playmates were appear within the pages of their favorite fairy tales.  Sophie has spent her entire life preparing for this day, maintaining a beauty routine, sewing dresses and doing good deeds.  Agatha, on the other hand, would do anything to remain at home with her gravestones and evil pet cat.  When the two are swept away, they find that a serious mistake has been made and their fortunes have been reversed.  Beautiful Sophie to the School for Evil and ghastly Agatha to the School for Good.  As they try to fight for their hearts' desire, the girls learn about themselves and the barrier between Good and Evil.


The School for Good and Evil opens on the eve of the night when children regularly disappear from their homes.  Most children are trying to make themselves as undesirable as possible, while Sophie attempts to flaunt her assets as a princess.  She is determined to be spirited away from her home to the School for Good where she will meet her prince charming.  Along side her, will certainly be her friend Agatha, the child for whom the term "witchy" was coined.  As her counterpart, Agatha will enter the School for Evil and the two will find a way to maintain their frienship despite the rivalry of their schools.  The premise for this book is very unique and charming.  The thought of children being stolen from their homes only to show up in the pages of storybooks is both wonderful and terrifying.  I do wish that we were able to spend a little more time with Agatha and Sophie within their village and to learn more about the mysterious town from which no one can choose to leave.  

This novel features some fantastic characters.  Sophie was difficult to like, but that was kind of the point, while Agatha did lose a little of herself by the end of the novel.  Sophie's roommates where a fantastic addition.  They had the best lines and often left me laughing out loud.  These characters could easily hold a story or series of their own (hint hint!).

The School for Good and Evil was a beautiful mix of Wicked, Harry Potter and the humor of Roald Dahl.  It was really fun to see the juxtuposition between Good and Evil.  The schools were truly equal but opposite, down to the smallest detail.  I must admit, I had more love for the School of Evil as they had more interesting characters and it was enjoyable to watch them revel in the dank, dire and disgusting.  The world building is truly fantastic and well fleshed out, though it is a little difficult to keep track of all the rules and the names of the students.  This was aided by the alternating point of view which worked well to show the thoughts and feelings of both girls as well as to give a glimpse into the inner workings of both schools.

The plot was a little predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.  The ending was a little strange, and I can't wait to see how this plays out in future books. I am very excited to see this on film.  I think that it will translate really well and that the setting will play out beautifully on the big screen.  Overall, an excellent addition to the Middle-Grade section of my classroom library.  I cannot wait to jump back into this world in 2014.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

10 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Magical Violence
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None


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