Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairytale Retellings
Once upon a time in a far away land (aka California), a young woman named Carolyn stumbled upon an intriguing book while watching a Youtuber’s book haul: The School for Good and Evil. She immediately went on Goodreads, looked at the summary and immediately wanted to get her grubby hands on it. Fortunately, her younger, much more observant sister found it for her at a used bookstore. Stunned by her good fortune, she immediately began to read it. She read about a town where every year, 2 kids are picked to go to the school for good and evil. One for good, one for evil. Then they would be the princesses, princes or evil villains of their fairy tales. A girl named Sophie who was pretty and did all the things that princesses were suppose to do knew she would be in the school for good. Agatha, her best friend, was the opposite. She was ugly and lived with a black cat. She knew she was going to the evil side of the school. As fate would have it, Sophie actually ended up in the evil school, Agatha in the good. Angry at their predicament, they explored the mysteries of the school while trying to do well in their classes and harness magic and tried to figure out why in the world they ended up in such a different place than they thought they would be. Enchanting worldbuilding, fairy tale Easter eggs and characters that are frustrating-but-you-still-want-to-read-about-them make this story unique and utterly readable. There was also a really great theme surrounding what is good and evil and how we define it.
Of course, hungry for more, Carolyn read the second book which picked up right after the events of the first book. It started off rocky and the plot seemed to go nowhere but then somewhere along the way, the book cleverly found its footing. More mysteries about the school were revealed. The main characters (Sophie, Agatha, and Tedros) remained their lovable, yet really frustrating selves. The story unfolded as a criticism of gender binaries and gender roles packaged as a middle grade story that is not as pretentious as it sounds (at all).
The third book, surprisingly, did not take place at the school. A lot of fairy tale parents make a cameo in this one.This one follows the theme Old versus New. Unfortunately, the story did get repetitious and the characters seem to undergo the character arc that they’ve been with for the previous books. Too much back history about the side characters as well. But Carolyn still devoured the book and the story reached an epic and satisfying conclusion.
My separate School for Good and Evil review
My spoiler discussion of the sequel, A World Without Princes