Review: The School for Good and Evil
Title: The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil Series, Book 1)
Author: Soman Chainani
Published: 14 May 2013
Hours/Pages: 13 hours and 45 minutes/544 pages
Memorable Quote: “She had always found villains more exciting than heroes. They had ambition, passion. They made the stories happen. Villains didn’t fear death.”
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Synopsis: For the past 200 years, children from Sophie and Agatha’s village have been kidnapped – always two at a time, a boy and a girl, two girls, or two boys. One child was always good and beautiful, while the other horrible and ugly. However, neither child ever came home.
Sophie is beautiful and essentially royalty with her lovely dresses and perfect hair in Gavaldon, but Agatha is ugly and seen as a witch in her black clothes and dislike of everyone. Sophie dreams of being kidnapped so she can escape her boring home, while Agatha is content where she is. However, they find out where all the missing children go, as this year, they are kidnapped and taken to the Endless Woods – to The School for Good and Evil. Only, Sophie finds herself in the School for Evil, while Agatha ends up in the School for Good. The best friends are told that good and evil cannot be friends, but are determined to find their way back to Gavaldon. The more time they spend at the school, though, the more they begin to discover who they truly are.
I decided that I needed to read more middle grade books, and this one looked pretty interesting. The typical fairy-tale story was turned on its head, with the Sophie being sent to evil and Agatha being sent to good. It immediately gave a clue that beauty and good deeds that are done to enhance one’s beauty don’t mean much to the school master. Yet, we see that many of the students in the “good” school are not entirely pure of heart, and the students in the “evil” school are much more complex than one might assume when it comes to a villain.
While the book pokes fun at typical fairy tales and their tropes, it also becomes increasingly dark, violent and heavy in its tone. I would recommend this book for upper middle grade readers, more likely tweens.
I liked that the book tackled topics like friendship, fear, and what it takes to change for better or worse and how our environments can play a role in who we become.
My complaint is that this is done in a rather sloppy way. It almost felt like the author knew how he wanted to start and end the book, but the middle kept faltering in the direction it wanted to go. I also feel uneasy about Sophie and Agatha’s friendship. It was very passive aggressive feeling, and it didn’t often feel genuine.
I liked that the book showed that beauty is so much more than physical appearance, and that good deeds need to be done out of the goodness of one’s heart, rather than for praise or to feel good about oneself.
The voice narration was fantastic. Each character had such a clear voice, that, although there were many characters, I had a clear picture of who was who.
Sophie and Aggie were so different, yet I liked them both. While both could be difficult to like at times, I felt that made them more realistic and relatable. They’re both flawed, young, and filled with so many thoughts and feelings about their situations that it can feel a bit overwhelming, which I think is how most 12/13 year olds feel often.
Overall, The School for Good and Evil was fun, dark, thoughtful, and at times, a bit inconsistent. It was very enjoyable as an audio book, and I look forward to starting the second book in the series.