The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The School for Good and Evil, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fractured fairy tale has plenty of twists for fantasy fans.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 38 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The School for Good and Evil explicitly plays with the conventions of familiar fairy tales and urges readers to challenge the assumptions they bring to the material. Readers will recognize versions of favorite characters from folklore, but with a fresh twist.

Positive Messages

The characters in The School for Good and Evil spend much of their time worrying about which side they belong on. But the story demonstrates that people are not simply good or evil, but that they are human and contain a little of each. The important thing is to strike a balance and be true to yourself and the ones you love, without obsessing about how your behavior might be rewarded.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the start of The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha seem destined for particular stations in life. But after receiving seemingly mixed-up assignments at the school, they begin to change their attitudes about heroism and 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, The School for Good and Evil contains its fair share of violence. For much of the book, the mayhem is implied rather than shown, and when there is a violent encounter, it tends be be cartoonish rather than realistic. But the climactic chapters involve an all-out war between Evers (good students) and Nevers (bad students), and the body count is high. One of the main characters is killed, although there's hope of resurrection in the cliffhanger ending.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The School for Good and Evil is a fresh take on fairy tale devices and cliches, upending the expectations most readers have about princesses and villains. The language is very mild, with nothing worse than "ass" used. Would-be princesses and princes flirt with each other, but there's virtually no sexual content (though there are a couple of mildly bawdy sword jokes, if one cares to look for them). 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).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLizOhio May 21, 2014

A great book!

My 11 year old daughter found this book at a bookstore... she read it and LOVED it. As a result, I have read and love it, too. She is now reading the 2nd book... Continue reading
Parent Written bykschnee June 15, 2014

Daughter loved book, but Web site is another matter

My daughter loved the book, but when she went on the Web site to "take the test," there were no privacy controls, and her name and town were publicly... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 23, 2013
Kid, 9 years old February 11, 2014

The best book EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This book is about 2 girls who get taken to the School for Good and Evil and think they each know what schools they are going to be in, but get dropped off at t... Continue reading

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 henchmen, 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 cliches 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, then move on to the next contest. The repetition of this patterns 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 how portrayals of 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?

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