About My Book Reviews

Saturday, September 15, 2018

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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Series: School for Good and Evil

Title: School for Good and Evil (Book 1)

Author: Soman Chainani

Published: 2013

Genre: Fantasy

Grade Level: 6th-8th Grade

Movie Rating: PG-13 for adult humor

Blurb (from goodreads):
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.

My Scores:

I have a lot to say. So buckle up!

Writing Style: Sparse

Man, the writing was a mess. Where do I even start? I guess I’ll start with what I liked.

I loved the dialogue in this book! It was true to character and very funny.

For example:
    "Agatha trudged past her. 'But if you say anything smug or stuck-up or shallow, I’ll have Reaper [the cat] follow you home.'
    Sophie ran after her. 'But then I can’t talk!'"

From practice, I know how hard it is to be funny on paper, so I can really apricate it when I find humor in a book.

Also, I learned a bunch of new words reading this book: cocksure, spurious, gawped, autumnal, and excoriating. Really didn’t expect to learn so many new words from a middle grade book.

The grammar… it was an awful mess. Why so many em dashes? Why? And I’m no grammar nazi, but I’ve never seen then used like this…

For example: '"Agatha, no!' Sophie cried—'
For example: "'No! I’m Good! It’s the wrong one!' Sophie screamed—"

Just seems a bit odd. I think I like them better inside the quotes.

But it gets worse! Throughout the book random words were capitalized.

For example: "From the Belfry the squawk echoed…"
For example: "They were just animals. Slaves to the Greater Good."

Like why? Just why?

Then there’s the action scenes… The action scenes were really hard to follow and were the main reason why I found the writing style to be sparse.

For example:
          "[Our MC’s are snatched up by a bird] All around, gangly trees snatched at the girls as the bird dipped and climbed to avoid them, until thunder exploded ahead and they smashed headfirst into a raging lightning storm. Fire bolts sent trees careening towards them and they shielded their faces from rain, mud, and timber, ducked cobwebs, beehives, and vipers, until the bird plunged into deadly briars and the girls blanched, closing their eyes to the pain—
          Then it was quiet."

The pacing was just way too fast. Had there been more narration and explanation imbedded into these scenes they would have had a much greater impact on the audience. In fact, had it not been for the dialogue, I think I would have gotten lost several times throughout the book.

Characters: Memorable

I loved our two main characters, Sophie and Agatha. I loved how they flipped the status quo, and I loved how much they struggled with others in the schools because of it. Their inner thoughts were spot on for me, and I wish there would have been more of it.

The plot moved so fast that the other characters get lost in the shuffle. Even the main love interest felt a bit lacking. Not because they weren’t compelling characters, but because there was so much to keep up with that it’s easy to forget about them if they’re not in the current scene you’re reading.

Plot: Enjoyable

It’s clear from the plot that this book is not meant to be taken seriously. Do yourself a favor and try not to think about it too much or you’ll give yourself a migraine. 

This book reminded me a lot of The Grimm’s Brothers and A Knight’s Tale. If you enjoyed those movies, you might like this book. 

Even so, the plot could have been so much better, it’s sad.

I love the premise! Putting a drab, emo girl in a princess school, and putting head-cheerleader girl in a haunted house school. It’s plays very well into the conflict and humor.

I loved how the two MC’s characters change throughout the book, discovering who they truly are. 

I love how the lines blur between the good kids and the evil kids, the good teachers and the evil teachers. 

I love the comic relief or added conflict given by the side characters. 

It was just soooo messy! There was too much to keep track of at any given time. It needed to be stream-lined, like so bad you guys. It was 488 pages long, it needed to be 250 at max. It would have been more impactful, and more memorable.

But what really killed the mood was when the book took itself too seriously.

For example: "But pain meant they were still alive. Pain meant they still had hope for getting home."

Other times, I felt that the humor was too adult for a middle grade book.

For example: "'It sucks you of every intelligent thought and leaves you dumb as a donkey’s ass."'

Overall: Enjoyable

Overall, it was a good time. I had a lot of laughs and chuckles. My head hurt at some points, because the plot had overloaded my brain, but the ending was worth it. I thought the ending was really something. Just wish the plot had been edited down so that the message could have stood out more.

It was a mixed bag honestly. But I think the author wanted the take away to be from these two pivotal scenes in the book.

For example: "'You see, it doesn’t matter what we are, Sophie.' Lady Lesso leaned so close she just had to whisper. “It’s what we do.'"

For example (paraphrased):
"'What did you think of Beatrix the first time you saw her?'
'I don’t know. She was beautiful,' Agatha groused.
'And now?'
'She’s revolting.'
'Has she gotten less pretty?'
'No, but—'
'So, it’s being Good that matters? I thought you said it was looks.'"

However, the messaging was clouded when our MC’s started heckling the other students ("'You wouldn’t know Good if it crawled up your dress!' Agatha yelled") or did other spoilery things that they never got punished for or felt guilty about.

I don’t mind if the characters have flaws, but we need to see them as flaws, you know?

Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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