The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is a fun spin on traditional fairytales with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor and a delightful friendship. The narration for the audiobook of The School for Good and Evil is enjoyable, but might not be the best way to be introduced to this book for various reasons. The School for Good and Evil obviously tries to turn traditional tropes of good and evil on their head, but I struggled at times since those tropes are upheld for a large portion of The School for Good and Evil and only thoroughly turned upside down at the very end. This is one of those reviews that is a little tricky for me to write, since I can see the objective merit of The School for Good and Evil, but my personal experience was lessened by various factors. For a more positive opinion, check out Tabitha’s review :D. Also, there are gorgeous interior illustrations that I completely missed when I listened to the audiobook, so be sure to at least peek at a physical copy so you don’t miss out!
Note: I listened to The School for Good and Evil on audiobook, which definitely influenced my experience; I just can’t help it.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (The School for Good and Evil #1)
Published by HarperCollins on May 14th, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, MG, YA
Page Length: 488 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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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 narrator of The School for Good and Evil has a British accent, which was excellent for the fairytale setting and characters. The various character voices were quite well done and contributed wonderfully to the characters’ personalities.
- The School for Good and Evil presents a very fun twist on the traditional fairytales with the idea of a school where future good and evil characters are taught how to fulfill their roles in fairytales. All the little touches of various students’ parents and the teachers being from well-known fairytales were a lot of fun.
- The plot of The School for Good and Evil gets a bit spooky and twisty as various things about the world are revealed. I won’t give anything away, but I was definitely intrigued quite early on!
- The ending for The School for Good and Evil really makes the book and changes how you might view a lot of the story. I was definitely not expecting that twist and it made me quite happy to finally understand the message that The School for Good and Evil was trying to convey.
- After finishing the audiobook, I went back in a physical copy to look at the illustrations and they are gorgeous! I love interior illustrations and I think that these would really add to the reading experience, so I have to recommend at least looking at a physical copy if you like illustrations ;-).
- The narration confused me at first since there aren’t good transitions when the point of view switches between Sophie, Agatha, and various other characters. There were a few times when all of a sudden I would realize we were talking about the other girl and I’d have to change the scene in my head quickly.
- The School for Good and Evil has a good message in the end, but for most of the book there are a lot of tropes held up at least on the surface. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention since I was listening on audio, but it felt to me that there was a bit too much good = beautiful and evil = ugly, even if it was meant to be ironic. There were times when I started getting concerned that these tropes wouldn’t eventually be defeated, though that fortunately wasn’t true.
- While the premise for The School for Good and Evil is cute, when I actually got into the story and realized that there were some pretty harsh black and white distinctions between the “good” kids and the “evil” kids, I was less thrilled. This is another trope that is eventually turned around, but I was just uncomfortable when most of the story seemed to be saying that one of the girls was pure evil when sure she was troubled, but not to the point of being pure evil!
The School for Good and Evil has a good message about overturning tropes of fairytales in the end, but I really wanted to see that element come to the forefront sooner. This is one of those books where there are definitely a lot of subtle characterizations going on, and if you can’t pay close attention while listening to audiobooks, it might be best to read this one physically instead. I’m excited with where The School for Good and Evil left off, however, and am very excited to pick up the second book now that I know I need to read the physical copy to get the full experience ;-).
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.