Soman Chainani's The School for Good and Evil is a YA fantasy novel for fans of twisted fairy tales. Based on the anime style of the cover, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out darker, with more twists and turns than your typical fairy tale adventure. Chainani creates an imaginative story of good vs. evil, and explores what it means to be defined as a villain or a hero.
Summary: With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.
The two girls soon 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 among 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 and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
The novel is written for readers ages 8-12, but I think it might appeal better to readers ages 10-14. Coming in at a whopping 496 pages, what this book needed most was a editor with a stronger hand. I work exclusively in the YA book market and I'm a HUGE fan of fractured fairy tales and shows like Once Upon a Time, but I struggled with this book. It's obvious early on where the story is going, but the road to get there is exhausting. There are many scenes peppered throughout of the characters musing on their situation, deciding on their feelings, and wishing for things to be different. Considering how soon the author drops obvious hints about who is good and who is evil, it took far too long (and too much whining and reluctance from the characters!) to get there.
Parents/educators should know that there is some content to be wary of, including violence, potentially frightening scenes, objectionable language, and mature themes like love, child abduction, and death.
Sadly, this book was a disappointment for me. It lost a lot of its merit with its pace and wealth of unnecessary scenes. However, it does have quite a few positive critical reviews! I can attest to the fact that the book is well-written and the concept is a really good one, but it was a frustrating and exhausting read at times. Sadly, this fairy tale story did not enchant me.