Monday, February 16, 2015

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

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: The School for Good and Evil #1

Date Read: December 30, 2014

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: May 14, 2013

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genres: Fantasy, middle grade

Summary (taken from Goodreads): 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.
In Gavaldon, children go missing. In particular, two children every four years - one who is good, and one who is evil. One who is beautiful and kind, and one who is ugly and strange. They are rumored to be taken to the School for Good and Evil, where they are taught to be a part of a fairy tale. Good children are taught to be princes and princesses, while evil ones are taught to be villains.

Sophie dreams of being taken to the school and living out her fairy tale. She focuses on kindness and being good, even going so far as to befriend Agatha, who isolates herself and is very possibly a witch. 

Agatha figured she was only a good deed to Sophie, but after that they became friends. She knows she will be content so long as she and Sophie are together. So when Sophie is taken, she tries to stop the kidnapper.

Of course, she is unsuccessful. Not only is Agatha brought along to the School for Good and Evil as the second child, but she is thrown into Good - leaving Sophie to be thrown into Evil. Surely it's a mistake, but how do they prove this when nobody wants to believe them?

It did take me awhile to get into this book. In the beginning, I put it down a lot. The main reason for this is because I went into it expecting something with a much quicker pace - but the writing is slow. If I expected that, I think I would have enjoyed the beginning of this more.

I also had some problems at the beginning with the Good and Evil concepts. Good only cared about appearance and princes. Evil students were all ugly (excluding Sophie) and most wanted to be villains. I don't think most "bad guys" want to be bad; they just are.

Regardless, I loved the story by the end. The lines between Good and Evil blurred throughout the book, until I could not tell who really was Good, and who was Evil, regardless of which school they were in. I feel that the characters were complex and the different sides of them were shown well.

The twists here were subtle, but also unpredictable. It seemed like I never really knew where the story was going - so it did not feel like a story with a bunch of twists, but rather one where I had no idea where it would go at all.

Admittedly, this lead to some inconsistencies. Some of them were explained, and most I could overlook, but they were there. I think that, at times, they made the characters feel more realistic and unpredictable, but at others they failed. Mostly, I think the "failures" came up when a plot line was introduced but not carried through fully. Perhaps they will be addressed further in other books, but I do doubt that.

Overall, I found the story to be very unique and I liked the overall message. The characters were great, and I loved seeing them develop throughout the story. The book really showed past the surface of many characters, and I appreciated that a lot. I would recommend it to anyone who knows what they're getting into - but don't expect a fast-paced story like I did. That's not what this book is, but I think it more than makes up for that in other aspects.


  1. I really want this one! I'm not typically a fan of MG because there are SO many books that I need to read first but I WANT THIS ONE. Like now.

    It sounds so interesting and I really like the way Agatha's character sounds. Strangely enough, I think I'll be able to relate to her well!

    1. I really like this series so far! I'm nearly finished with the second book and I've enjoyed it a lot. Middle grade isn't my typical genre either, but I would recommend them :D

  2. The School for Good and Evil sounds like a wonderful book. I love reading MG so much. It also sounds a little bit like this book might be a very loose retelling of the Prince and the Pauper, which is interesting. Either that or I love retellings so much that my brain wants to make everything a retelling.

    1. I wouldn't know whether or not it's a retelling, but it is a great book!

  3. This definitely sounds different. I am hoping that by the end, they characters learn to move beyond the labels of good and evil.

    1. It is a different kind of story! I hope you enjoy it, if you pick it up :D

  4. I love the idea of the blurred lines (though I don't love the song). I think that's a common theme is books with good vs. evil themes, and this one sounds like fun. Great review!

  5. The most appealing thing about this book seems to be the plot and the twists it has in there that you can't see coming! I really don't like the concepts and slow paced books bore me too easily... so I doubt I will read this one. But I am glad you liked it!

    1. The twists were definitely the best part, although I think they also made the book inconsistent at times. If you don't like the idea/slow paced books, I would definitely say this isn't for you!