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.
I went into the book a bit skeptical since the characters are essentially split into “good” and “evil”. I was worried about possible cliches and simplifications. But Soman Chainani did a great job in blurring the lines between good and evil, showing slow transitions into good or evil, and planting little hints of good and evil in mundane personality traits. That being said, I did easily pick up on those little personality traits which made it a bit frustrating when characters in the story didn’t.
I found Sophie and Agatha to be a bit too naive and oblivious at times (and I’m not blaming that on this being a middlegrade-ish novel, because middlegrade can be clever). Despite their naivety, it was pretty interesting to watch the girls’ transformations through the novel. They really evolved and grew very seamlessly throughout the story. Their relationship with each other is very interesting to watch, keeping you on your toes and making you unsure whether to be suspicious or happy.
I really loved the world(s?) in this story. The way it is written makes it unclear whether there are two worlds (he real and the fairy tale) or if it is one big world with parts in seclusion from the rest. I loved the ambiguity. It worked since this story mainly takes place at the school, so we really don’t need to know about the politics of the greater world yet. We know just enough.
Some parts of the plot were pretty predictable but even more parts were very unpredictable. Towards the beginning-middle it starts off kind of like a high school petty romance, which is when the story is pretty predictable (who loves who?), but towards the end things get pretty crazy and it’s really impossible to predict the ending – especially the details. But the overall inspiration of fairytales made this book fairly whimsical, while putting a new twist on fairytale cliches (why do princesses rely on princes?). I did find some resemblances to Harry Potter (with the magic school and certain spells) and also the Hunger Games (with a certain tournament), but these resemblances weren’t super overwhelming so I was okay with it. Overall it was fast paced and magical
I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style. Though I loved it’s simplicity, many times I found that sentences were awkwardly worded or phrased. This didn’t occur an overwhelming amount, but when it did it really bothered me. Many times I questioned whether the author used the correct words – kind of like the drank vs drunk argument, sometimes certain words just didn’t quite seem right. Overall it didn’t deter me from reading and I still loved the simplicity.