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Author: Soman Chainani
Published By: HarperCollins (2013)
Synopsis: 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…? (Taken from Goodreads.)
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainai left me thinking two things:
Wow, that book was good.
Wow, that book was confusing.
While the book overall was a very fantastical story set right in a very believable fairy-tale setting, many scenes were incredibly confusing. I found it very difficult—mostly in the second half of the story—to keep track of where characters where, what they were doing and why they were doing things. The plotline itself was fast-paced and brimming with adventure, fantasy, and magic, and generally this kind of thing is good: however, in this setting and this book, it felt like there was too much of it, which resulted in confusion.
The relationship between Agatha and Sophie was…interesting…and confusing. The beginning, the first half, was phenomenal, and I loved Agatha’s character so much and her heart to just make sure Sophie was okay, while Sophie seems to care only about herself. Over the course of the story, we learn the characters’ true beings—that Agatha, though she appears a witch, is actually a kind girl who only wants to help others; and Sophie, the girl we all think is gonna be the princess, turns out to be a wicked person who cares only about herself.
Or so it’s portrayed.
While I loved Agatha and found her written very well, I was rather in disbelief about Sophie.
For instance, I never really knew if she was evil, good, evil faking good, or good faking evil; even after finishing reading, I’m not that sure of her true intent. Also, despite the many many attributes of her character that suggests hidden cruelty, I found myself feeling sympathetic for her as she’s pushed through Evil School. I understand that it’s a fairy-tale world, but really, you put anyone—princess or not—in that evil place, and they’re going to come out a villain. Sophie, to me, seemed like a semi-decent girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the other hand, the author did an amazing job with Agatha. She was written so beautifully; I loved her heart to help her friend, even if it meant getting herself in trouble. I loved her intent, where she feels more at home at Evil with its dirtiness, but knows in her heart she doesn’t want to be evil. She was done so well, and I loved her.
The ending. It was strange, not to mention incredibly flummoxing. One page Sophie was good and on Agatha’s side; the next page she’s trying to kill her. One page you think, good, Good is going to prevail! and the next you think, Is Good actually Evil and Evil actually good? And I have no idea what the author was trying to accomplish by the ending scene and “who needs princes in our fairy tale?” but it came off very strange. I understand the concept of friendship, but it just did not come off the way it was intended to. Not to mention the thing with the School Master and Sophie! That just added to the weirdness and the confusion.
A lot of scenes in this book, though written with a juvenile sense, were rather creepy. There was no way of knowing what was coming next—which in this sense was not good—and the whole prospect of Agatha’s best friend suddenly trying to kill her because she’s her “Nemesis”(and then the next page desperately apologizing) was confusing and creepy.
While this book’s writing style, plotline, themes, and set were aimed towards a more juvenile audience, lots of the scenes were either creepy or confusing, and like I’ve said, the ending was just weird. While I did enjoy the book as a whole, the things I disliked just outweighed the good things. I wouldn’t not recommend it, just don’t expect anything incredible if you do read it.
Recommended to: Ehh…not sure I’d recommend it.