Children's books · Fantasy

The School For Good & Evil, Soman Chainani

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Sophie and Agatha live in a village where teens are kidnapped by a mysterious School Master, two each year; one for Good, one for Evil. From their birth, everyone suspects which school each child will be chosen for, but none was more certain than Sophie. Beauty typical of any princess, she’s confident she’ll be chosen to live out her dream of Happily Ever After with her prince. The villagers are just as convinced about Agatha, the strange, ugly girl who lives in a graveyard. Despite their differences, the two girls are friends.

Though Sophie’s certain her beauty will guarantee her a place at Good, it’s clear her inside doesn’t match. She’s vain, uncaring about her father and befriends Agatha only as a good deed. Stand-offish at first, yet with no friends of her own, Agatha tolerates Sophie’s friendship. As the years go on the two become close friends, Sophie’s visits the highlight of Agatha’s day. Though a bit odd, Agatha has a good heart, genuinely caring about her friend and mother. The two have different views on the School for Good and Evil; Sophie longs to be chosen while Agatha couldn’t think of anything worse. And when the night of the kidnapping comes Agatha will do everything in her power to save Sophie. Yet only managing to get taken along with her.

The two are thrown into the wrong schools, much to everyone’s dismay. Throughout the book, Sophie attempts to get into the School for Good while Agatha tries to get them home. As the girls sneak around they uncover a darker undertone to both schools, making Agatha even more desperate to escape. It’s clear why the girls are in each school, but neither is willing to accept this. Though it’s-what’s-on-the-inside-that-counts is a common theme in many stories, paired with the harshness of classic-style fairy-tales made it unique.

I won’t go into it too much but the love triangle with Tedros, Sophie and Agatha were entertaining. Tedros is infatuated with Sophie’s beauty from the moment they met. He is the most popular boy in either school, with dozens of girls swooning at his feet, but he’s so used to the attention that none of them is interesting, even thinking them dull. But not Sophie. He’s adamant that a beauty like her couldn’t possibly be in the School for Evil which gives her relief that someone believes her. The thought of being with Tedros doubles her efforts to get into Good. Their relationship is very stereotypical of many between beautiful people; solely based on appearances and incredibly superficial.

Alternatively, Tedros is drawn to Agatha by her personality. The students regularly do exercises where the girls are disguised, and the boys must pick one. Tedros repeatedly picks Agatha, much to everyone’s shock (especially Sophie’s). The force drawing them together is very ruminant of true love; an indescribable force pulling the two together. It is disappointing the author did the typical boy and girl can’t stand each other in the beginning yet end up having feelings for each other. When you take into consideration that Agatha doesn’t trust beautiful (or normal) people since those in her village tormented her, it makes this instant dislike understandable.

The writing style was a clever mix of classic fairy-tale and modern young adult, resulting in a fairy-tale for modern audiences. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what our heroines get up into in the next instalment. I give it 4/5.

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