Rebecca Lavallee reviews School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Yay! Yet another young adult book about 2 teenage girls, one good and one evil. But wait, this is not quite your typical high school drama. Instead, The School for Good and Evil takes all your preconceived notions and flips them. When my boss first mentioned this series to me, as The School for Good and Evil is just book one in a trilogy, I was not quite sure what to think. I considered reading it after I finished with my current pile of books. Then he went ahead and put a copy on hold for me at the library, so I decided to give it a chance.

The beautiful Sophie and the ugly Agatha are unlikely best friends who live in a small village that is cursed. Every four years, two children are kidnapped and are eventually found to be a character in the fairy tales that are mysteriously delivered to the village’s bookstore. Unhappy with her home life, Sophie does everything in her power to ensure that she is one of the kidnapped children, knowing with every fiber of her being that she will undoubtedly become the princess in the next fairy tale and find her true love.

Agatha, on the other hand, could honestly care less, and enjoys living her life of solitude, even if it often disrupted by Sophie. On the night of the kidnapping in an attempt to rescue Sophie from being taken, both Agatha and Sophie are whisked away by the School Master. However, when they arrive at the School for Good and Evil, Sophie is sent to the Evil side and Agatha is sent to the Good side. Wait a minute, I thought Sophie was supposed to be the princess and Agatha was the villainous witch? And on top of it all, they are the only two who aren’t descendants of fairy tale characters? What have we gotten ourselves into?

As someone who was never the most beautiful or popular, I definitely related the most to Agatha. The school of good was so focused on looks and boys, and I never truly grasped the idea of spending hours to primp and only talking about and caring about boys. That’s not to say I didn’t have my boy crazy days, but I also enjoyed interests outside of boys. At the same time, I didn’t find myself relating to anyone in the school of evil because they were so focused on being evil. With the exception of Agatha, and occasionally Sophie, I found that most of the characters were one dimensional. That being said, I do not find that to be a negative of the novel. In fact, Chainani choosing to make the characters so firmly entrenched in their different schools and appearing to be one dimensional allows the reader to see how the characters change as the story progresses, but also how even though they are changing, they have trouble breaking away from their pre-conceived roles.

Throughout the book we see both Agatha and Sophie interact with the dashing Tedros, Sophie doing everything in her power to attract him and Agatha trying to avoid him at all costs. Tedros is an integral character throughout the novel, but at times he appeared to be nothing more than a plot device for the relationship between Agatha and Sophie. In the end, although he attempts to be the hero, it is the bond between to the two girls that creates the heart of the story.

There were some aspects of the story that I was not quite fond of. Although I enjoyed Sophie’s turn to evil, I found myself annoyed by Agatha’s brief encounter with the narcissistic side of good. There is a part of you that wants to the character to remain pure and unselfish, but in the end, her narcissism simply showed that she is a teenager with insecurities and a desire to fit in.

In the end, I have to thank Justin for insisting that I give this novel a chance. Although at times predictable, it was an interesting story with a positive message about the importance of friendship and love. Also, unlike the other students of the School for Good and Evil, both Agatha and Sophie prove that no one is truly good and no one is truly evil. We all have a little bit of both in us. I am looking forward to reading the next installment: A World without Princes. The fairy tale world has officially been flipped.

 

Chainani, Soman. The School for Good and Evil. Illus. Iacopo Bruno. New York: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2013. (First Edition, ISBN: 978-0- 06-210489-2).