“The School for Good and Evil” follows Sophie and Agatha, two normal girls who have been kidnapped from their sleepy village to train to become storybook heroes or villains. Sophie is convinced she’s headed to the School for Good, where she’ll become expertly trained in the art of facials, talking to animals, and sewing the perfect dress. Agatha, on the other hand, is pretty sure she’ll be going to the School for Evil, where she’ll learn dastardly spells, villainous hexes, and how to properly cook children. When the unexpected happens, and Sophie is sent to the School for Evil with Agatha heading to the School for Good, magical shenanigans ensue as the girls try to either swap schools or head back to their village for good (good as in forever, not good as in capital G, nice and lovely and sweet, Good).
Chainani had all the opportunity to make this a repeat Hogwarts, and I’m so glad he didn’t. His School for Good and Evil stands out in so many ways, first and foremost, this school can be just so plain dark. Your skin crawls with the horribly awful things the Evil teachers and students hope to achieve in their fairytale lives. It’s not uncommon to find yourself immersed in worry that Sophie, Agatha, or both are going to die at any moment. So many people have it out for them, in so many different and morbid ways, that I was positive one of them was going to be kicking the bucket before the end of the book, even before the end of the first half of the book. This feeling of wickedness gave “The School for Good and Evil” a delightful tension and unexpectedness, as Chainani’s writing felt like he might break all the YA rules and kill a protagonist right from the start. It left a feeling of suspense that keeps your heart racing throughout the entire story.
Chainani incorporates a discussion on just what it means to be Good or Evil throughout his action-packed story. Despite being pulled in to the mystery of whether or not there in fact was a mix up, and Sophie is truly Good and Agatha truly Evil, ultimately, Chainani tells readers that it is a person’s actions that determine these labels, and not face value, quick judgments. Chainani proves that looks can be deceiving, wicked exteriors can mask the most pleasant of interiors, and vice versa, and that each of us, regardless of whether or not a fairytale is written about us, will get to play the role of hero or villain in our own lives.
Protagonists whose lives you constantly fear for.
Great backstory on classic fairytale characters.