Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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

Title: The School for Good and Evil
Series: The School for Good and Evil # 1
Author: Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date of Publication: May 14, 2013
Source: bought for the Kindle

Goodreads Summary:
“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 Thoughts:

The minute I seen the cover of this book I went straight to Goodreads and put it on my "To Be Read" List right away.  This was months before it came out and then I promptly forgot about it.  Until I seen where it had been released and then purchased it for my Kindle.
I honestly think this story would have been great as a graphic novel or comic book idea.  It definitely has that feel to it anyways.  I know the Kindle had a few illustrations in it, but I think this book really needed many more for it to truly come into its own.  Did the actual copy have more of a comic book feel to it?  Not sure so feel free to leave me comments if you know.

So I realize this was written more for middle school aged children as the target audience than for adults but I still felt like this was done rather poorly.  It was really long, which I don't think many adults and some kids would mind, but I think there are a few kids that would have given up on it long before it ended.  I almost did but I still had hope for it.
I know it seems like I am just bashing the book and I am really not trying to; I just found some points of the book to be lost upon me.  Like the plot.  I understand the curse upon the town and I really liked the foreshadowing of how it plays out in the beginning but towards the end it seemed like everything just went haywire.  There were just way too many story lines in the plot and it made the book seem rushed together, instead of flowing gracefully.    I think we could have done without a few hooks and maybe a bit more understanding as to what is really going on in the story.
But after all that is said, I didn't hate the book.  There were areas that were pretty good and had potential to be even better.  I liked how the fairy tales had come alive, if you will, and combined with the Reader to really live out their own fairy tale.  That idea has promise.   What young person hasn't imagined living their own fairy tale?
I also liked the secrets behind the guards at the School, as well as the teachers and the headmaster as well.  The fantasy that was involved was also one reason I still held out hope for the book.  I loved the fairies, wolves, trolls, and the magic that decorated the pages of the book.
Since this was targeted towards middle-school ages, it does have some funny scenes in it involving farting, which I don't have a problem with since I have a house full of boys.  It was funny.
But being an adult, I found that The School for Good and Evil almost had a satirical edge to it.  I mean the way everything is over the top good and over the top evil almost seems like the author is aiming for satire.

Through it all, I did feel like the author was trying to point out a moral lesson here and there, albeit cliched moral lessons.  Obviously, beauty is only skin deep is at the forefront as we witness Sophie's transformation through the book.  And another is : Don't judge a book by its cover as we see everyone including Agatha herself, finally see what is truly inside Agatha.  Of course there are others....

The plot was weak but the characters were interesting and it was hard not to fall for some of them.  Although I found myself rooting for the Evil school kids more than I did the Good kids.  And the secondary characters are really what stole the show for me.  The witches, like Dot, Hester, and Anadil, were fun to watch interact with Sophie.
I didn't find myself  falling in love with the main characters too much at all.  Sophie irritated me to no end and Agatha took to long what everyone in the Reader world already knew.  I don't know if I agree with the ending or not.  I am really torn on it.  I think  there are some reasons an antagonist can come back from the dark side, so to speak, but I wonder if this antagonist had just did too much already?
Then I wonder if things will go back to the way they are or will our protagonist see their friend for what they truly are?
Many questions left unanswered for me.  I want the answers for them but at the same time  I just don't know if I can read the second book if it doesn't has more substance to it than the first.

I had to give The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani :

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