The School for Good and Evil, Book 1
By Michael Berry,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fractured fairy tale has plenty of twists for fantasy fans.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Explicitly plays with conventions of familiar fairy tales and urges readers to challenge assumptions they bring to the material. Readers will recognize versions of favorite characters from folklore, but with a fresh twist.
People are not simply good or evil, but are human and contain a little of each. Strike a balance and be true to yourself and the ones you love, without obsessing about how your behavior might be rewarded. Love yourself for who you are. While the author's message may be it's what's inside that counts, readers encounter some problematic messages coming from characters overly concerned with their appearance, implying that girls must be thin to be valued, suggesting you should skip breakfast to stay thin.
Positive Role Models
At the start, Sophie and Agatha seem destined for particular stations in life. But after receiving seemingly mixed-up assignments at school, they begin to change their attitudes about heroism, villainy. They bounce back and forth in their understanding of what it means to be good or evil, and their actions sometimes have disastrous consequences. Both girls eventually move beyond being stereotypes and learn the meaning of true love.
Violence & Scariness
As with traditional folktales and fairy tales, it has its fair share of violence. For much of the book, mayhem is implied rather than shown. Any violent encounters tend be be cartoonish rather than realistic. But climactic chapters involve an all-out war between Evers (good students) and Nevers (bad students), and the body count is high. One key character is killed, although there's hope of resurrection in the cliffhanger ending.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirting and kissing. Sophie is sure that she's meant for the local Prince Charming, but "true love" does not run smoothy in The School for Good and Evil. A couple of jokes about swords being awkwardly unsheathed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The School for Good and Evil is a fresh take on fairy tale devices and clichés, upending the expectations most readers have about princesses and villains. The language is very mild (nothing worse than "ass"). Would-be princesses and princes flirt with each other, and there's one kissing scene and a couple of mildly bawdy sword jokes. As in most fairy tales, violence and the threat of it are fairly constant, but most characters escape actual harm, at least until the climactic battle sequence. The body count there is rather high, and one of the main characters is killed (though seemingly revived later on).
Where to Read
Based on 12 parent reviews
Dangerously BAD messages for girls
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Parents - please reconsider the age limits - not appropriate for under 12, in my opinion
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What's the Story?
When best friends Sophie and Agatha are stolen away from their village and end up at the THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, the girls assume that their roles in life will remain as they always have predicted. With her blond hair, pink dresses, and penchant for doing good deeds, Sophie will be trained to be a storybook princess. Black-clad and antisocial Agatha has all the makings of a first-class villainess. At the school, however, the girls find themselves exactly where they don't want to be. Sophie is the one to take Uglification lessons and consort with future witches and their nefarious assistants, while Agatha must learn about makeup and the proper etiquette for attracting a Prince Charming. To get back home, Agatha and Sophie must solve a riddle that seems to threaten the very existence of the school.
Is It Any Good?
The School for Good and Evil is no run-of-the-mill fairy tale spin-off. Author Soman Chainani has clearly done his homework in folklore and mass media, and he manipulates the clichés of fantasy and folklore with a great deal of wit and insight. This opening volume to the series feels a little long, however. Agatha and Sophie attempt new trials, pass or fail in unexpected ways, and then move on to the next contest. The repetition of this pattern grows burdensome across nearly 500 pages. Still, there's a lot of narrative meat here, served up with flair by Chainani and complemented by Iacopo Bruno's black-and-white illustrations.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about portrayals of fairy tale characters in The School for Good and Evil. How do fairy tale characters in modern media differ from their original, folkloric versions? Why do you think these stories remain so powerful and compelling?
Do you ever make judgments about people based on how they look or dress? Can you tell if someone is "good" or "bad" just by looking at them?
Do you ever feel as if other people -- family, friends or teachers -- have expectations of you that you can't possibly meet? How do you handle those expectations?
- Author: Soman Chainani
- Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno
- Genre: Fairy Tale
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Fairy Tales
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: May 14, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 17
- Number of pages: 496
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 29, 2022
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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