Why Did I Listen To This Book?:
There’s something about magical boarding schools that will convince me that I cannot live without having read THE BOOK every single time. Y’all, the concept of The School For Good And Evil by Soman Chainani was so cool that I knew I had to listen to it. Frankly, this was a great life choice. Chianini blends fairy tales, magic, and friendship – so pretty much all of my favorite elements into one excellent read WITH a bangin’ map. ALSO, I chose to listen to this one as it was during a time when I was commuting 2 hours a day, and thus a perfect distracting listen.
What’s The Story Here?:
Every few years two children are kidnapped. One child is good and wonderful, the other child is usually ugly and bad. The two different children are taken to the School For Good and the School for Evil, to learn how to be heroes and villains. Sophie is the best looking girl in Gaveldon. She is actually excited about being kidnapped, so like an idiot she waits for the Headmaster to take her. Agatha is Sophie’s best friend. She is plain and a bit of a drudge. It is understood that Agatha will be kidnapped as well and sent to the school for evil. Agatha does not want to go, she thinks it will wreck her friendship with Sophie.
Unfortunately for Sophie, she does not end up in the school she expected. By some weird twist of fate, Sophie ends up in the school for evil and Agatha ends up in the school for good. Both girls are the odd ones out at their respective schools. Agatha is not nearly as beautiful as Beatrice and the other girls at her school. Sophie does not seem to be as ugly as the other girls at her school. Even worse, the separation is taking a toll on the girl’s friendships. Yet, they must work together to set things right, escape the school, and hopefully go home.
How Was The Characterization?:
Before I talk about the characters, I have to talk about the friendship. Y’all, I love it when a book emphasizes friendship over romance, which is what The School For Good And Evil by Soman Chainani does. You get an exploration of friendship and platonic love as opposed to romantic love. You get to see the bonds of friendship actually tested and what appears to be a toxic friendship, but y’all this book is deeper than that, and so that’s why I am at the point where I want to jump up, wave my hands around and yell FRIENDSHIP! THEMES! FRIENDSHIP! To convince you to read this, or convince you that I must be loopy. I think that is truly what defines Agatha and Sophie, the main characters.
To break it down even further, for most of the book I was totally team Agatha, even in the end she was my favorite of the two girls. Agatha does not fit in with the princesses. She is studious. She is unconventional. YET. YET. She has more heart that all of the other girls in the School for Good. I wanted her to succeed despite her limitations and the fact that she was so ostracized. Her main goal all along is to protect Sophie and get them back to Gaveldon and well, you’ll have to read to find out if they achieve it. Straight up, Agatha is a total boss.
As for Sophie, I spent much of the book wanting to strangle her. She is airheaded. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself. She’s unkind. She’s vain. It’s easy to see why she was put in the School for Evil, based on her intrinsic character virtues. YET. She isn’t quite what she appears to be and my mind did end up changing, despite how much Sophie frustrated me. Also, she has this bad ass fashion sense and I cannot help but root for characters who go all Project Runway on me. So when you meet her, keep your mind open.
What About The Worldbuilding?
How many of you were raised on fairy tales and Disney movies? I KNOW I WAS, granted I got the censored version. What the School For Good And Evil does is provide a new origin for how the fairytales came to be. This book posits that fairy tales come from a magical object called the Storian and basically each student of The School For Good And Evil has a destiny to fulfill, with those from the School for Good acting out the roles as the star of various well known tales, and students from the School for Evil acting as villains.Y’all, I love it when authors play with things that I love, in this case fairytales, and I thought it was such a creative way to express where the fairytales come from.
I also loved that at the same time, the book subverts what we know about fairytales. It gave me the impression that ugly is not always evil. That beauty does not necessarily mean someone is also a good and kind person. I love that the villains are portrayed in a sympathetic light.
Also. The classes and tests the students have to take are awesome and creative and just totally consistent and in line with the world Chainani has created. READ THIS BOOK YO.
How Is The Writing?:
Soman Chainani can tell a story, my friends. The Story For Good And Evil really does hearken back to bed time story days, where it’s a once upon a time with an epic storyline. There’s an old school charm to the prose. Honestly, my whole mindset while reading was that I was going to experience this story in the same way that I experience The Princess Bride or Beauty And The Beast, as a classic fairy tale with a twist. I am incredibly satisfied with what I read and feel like this book totally delivered on all fronts.
Let’s Hear About The Narration:
As for the narration – THANK GOD I listened to the audiobook. You guys, there could not be a more perfect narrator. Okay, you know how in the first Lord Of The Rings movie Galadriel is telling you about how many rings there are and where they went and all that back ground stuff? Well, the narrator, Polly Lee totally has a fairy tale voice. Like you hear her and are like YES NARRATE ALL THE FANTASY BOOKS AND ALL THE FAIRY TALE VOICE. She has an interesting narrating voice, I mean, when she is not doing the character voices. I liked her voice for Agatha which was kind of flat and for Sophie which was melodic, as those are interesting choices to represent the characters. She’s seriously a pleasure to listen to. The audiobook is 13 hours and 46 minutes unabridged and totally worth a listen. It is produced by Harper Audio.
Sum It Up With A GIF:
Word. Belle. Word. Seriously, I felt that The School For Good And Evil WAS the most wonderful story, especially on audio. If you read it, read it via audio.
Disclosure: Audiobook review copy provided by the publisher.
Other reviews of The School For Good And Evil:
Paper Riot – “a fun, entertaining and magical middle grade book”
A Reader Of Fictions – “*bows to Polly Lee’s awesomeness*”
Bookworm1858 – “I found the writing of this one absolutely addicting”