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

When I started my Goodreads account years back, The School for Good and Evil was the first book that I added to my TBR. I was actually in 9th grade then so I was very close to the target audience.

It’s a shame that it took me this long to actually read this book. If I had read it back then, I would have loved it so much more.

This review was initially posted on my old blog and I’m reposting it because the series is being adapted by Netflix and I’m very excited!

synopsis

the school for good and evil book cover

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…?

Trigger warnings: fatphobia, parental issues, bullying.

my review

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get my hands on a copy of this back in school! I got the chance to finally read this book as an audiobook and I’m so glad. The audiobook was really fun to listen to.

So let’s get to why exactly I liked this book.

the concept

In the book, there are two schools—one for Good and one for Evil. Students who graduate from these schools become heroes and villains in their own stories respectively.

The author brought in students who are children of well-known heroes and villains from fairytales as well as other acquaintances. The students have to do well in their classes in order to get high marks and get their own stories.

The book was super fun to read because of the concept. I imagined it all while listening to the narration and it was great.

the moral

Until Sophie and Agatha, all the characters were easily split into Good and Evil. There are easily distinguishable traits in students so there was never an issue.

It should have been the same for Sophie and Agatha but they’re put into the wrong schools which set the book’s main plot.

Sophie and Agatha showed how Good and Evil are not so clearly distinguished. A person can be both and just because you like pink, you’re not Good. You are divided based on morals and thoughts, not what you think you are.

This moral was subtly shown throughout the book. It definitely has something to teach to younger readers.

the characters

Sophie and Agatha were so fun to follow! We read from both of their points of view so we have a complete view of their adventures.

They are also complex characters without a straight moral compass. This clear but also subtle way of showing what truly matters as a person was brilliant.

The other characters in the book were interesting enough but they were not as interesting as our main characters.

friendship > love

This book is more focused on friendship than love. The friendship in limelight is Sophia and Agatha’s but we also see other friendships in the book.

I loved the friendship focus. Sophia and Agatha have a complicated friendship which is tested during this book. It was interesting to see how they manage it all.

There is some focus on the love aspect but it’s mainly only to show how love is expected for Good students while Evil students are always alone as villains. And some questions are raised about love as well.

good vs evil

Through this book, the author questions some fundamental things about Good and Evil. Why does Good always win? Why does Good get love while Evil doesn’t? Why does Evil have to be ugly in appearance? Why can’t heroes be ugly and villains be beautiful?

The questions I really loved were: why do villains have all the character while heroes are bland with some morals? Why does Good have no sass and cleverness? Why do they depend on love and companionship while Evil can do everything alone?

These are all questions that kids usually think about and question as they read fairytales. I questioned these things myself.

It was wonderful to see how the author takes these questions and spins a whole storyline around it. Some things are questioned and taken apart while others are answered through the story.

the ending

If this book was a fairytale like the others that we know, it would end with the Good student finding love and winning over Evil. But this book turns things around.

I really like how the ending was different and showed the true meaning of a happy ending. It was such a twist and wholly unexpected but was the BEST. I won’t say anymore because of spoilers.

Also, while it has a good enough ending, the series continues after this. It doesn’t fully end. But I didn’t find much suspense and didn’t continue the series.

overall

If you are looking for a middle-grade book to read or recommend, pick this! Especially if you’re recommending to middle grade or younger students.

P. S. I haven’t read the second book so I’m not sure about this but I’ve heard that book 2 has a transphobic element. Please pick it up with caution.

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