YA Fantasy Review: ‘The School for Good and Evil’ by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)Can a book end up almost exactly where you expected it to go, down to almost every single plot detail, and still manage to surprise you? That is what I found with this delightfully charming young adult book. There was no twist in the beginning, characters did what I expected, and the resolution was exactly what I called at the beginning of the book. But the author gave me enough to question my wisdom, and made me laugh throughout, and overall I was left, well, charmed.

A small town in the middle of the woods has for years found itself locked in a strange situation; children being taken and eventually showing up in their fairy tales. The sequence in which the adults try to figure out what is going on over the generations is one of the funniest passages I have read by the way; expect absurd theories involving some impressively evolving bears.   But after a short three hundred years a pattern is found; two children, one good and one evil, are taken by the head master to learn fairy tale conventions.

The School for Good and Evil follows two young girls, nominally best friends, who have very different ideas about this school. Agatha is a realist and refuses to believe in the school (hidden story books not withstanding). Sophie on the other hand is certain she has everything it takes to be a story book Princess. On the night of the choosing the two are of course taken… only to be dropped off in the school opposite to what each expects.

What follows is a lot of Sophie trying to convince everyone she should be in the school for good while she eyes her prince, Agatha doing her best to get back home, and the two friends finding themselves in over the head in almost every way. All while princesses scoff, witches ready curses, and the mysterious headmaster allowing a destiny of sorts to reach a final conclusion.

This was a perfect diversion for me as it contained two of my favorite things; humor and heart. Agatha’s path will melt even the coldest heart and Sophie’s isn’t easily forgot either. And the humor is present throughout; subtle and rarely over the top but at times it made me chortle out loud.   Both of these aspects more than made up for the predicable nature of the actual story. After all, this is a book of fairy tales, predictability is part of the game unless trope bending is the design (and in this case it was not).

If, like me, you partake in audio books at all then I give this book an extra nudge in your direction. The narration was fantastic, perfectly hitting the timing needed for the humor and putting just enough distinction in the voices to separate them. She even had a decent singing voice for the two or three lyrical sections found in the book.

4 Stars

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