Title: The School for Good and Evil
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Children’s Fairytale/Fantasy
Best friends Sophie and Agnes have different views on the fabled School for Good and Evil where children are taught to be fairytale heroes and villains. Sophie longs to be chosen and with her natural beauty she’s certain to be a winning princess. However, Agnes wants nothing more than her solitary graveyard house and occasional visits from Sophie.
Taken to the School, they find themselves in a hairy predicament: Sophie arrives in the sewage of Evil, while Agnes arrives via flower-blooming into the courtyard of Good. As the friends try to convince the teachers they’re in the wrong place, and to change the mind of the secluded Schoolmaster, they find that not all is well and good in the School for Good (or appropriately foul in the School for Evil).
Making new friends on both sides, Sophie becomes more and more desperate for her prince to choose her despite her placement—but the prince keeps choosing Agnes—and the two fight for a chance to escape the school and almost certain death if their fairytale begins and their Nemesis is chosen.
Okay, I’m reviewing this book primarily because it’s in ‘my genre’—fairytales and children’s fantasy. Newcomer Chainani is a wizard of words in his own right and for the first half of the book I was loving it. Admittedly, it’s a big book and took me a while to get through. When I was done, my jaw was hanging open and I realized I had just wasted my time. Basically, do not read this book.
Maybe I should have seen it coming. There had been several little jokes in the early stages of this book: a secondary prince made himself look like the main Prince character and someone commented that Main Prince A should just go marry himself for all his arrogance—meaning, of course, the Imitation Prince B. It was a joke in poor taste, but I let it pass. But by the last couple chapters of the book I was beginning to worry. While I won’t go into detail, allow me to just say that the book ended (SPOILER) with the main two characters deciding ‘who needs princes for a happily ever after?’ I was flabbergasted. And grossed out. Just a bit.
Soman Chainani is a talented writer. He had me excited about the book—and really enjoying it—until the unsettling end. It was not a very happy book as the mixing elements of good and evil brought out most of the tension and it was pretty grim and dark throughout. There were moments of hilarity, and I picked it because I always love a good ‘school’ story. I’m sorry to say that this is not one I can recommend on any level.
Because it is in my genre of reading/writing I feel obligated to review it—and I did read the whole thing—but as only as a warning. I found it woefully inappropriate and amoral. I sincerely wish I could give this book a higher rating and a more pleased review, because it does show a good deal of promise. However, I cannot in good conscience. If my child came up to me with this book I would say ‘Honey, that is a bad book. I’m sorry, but go put it back on the shelf.’ And that is the sum of my review.