‘The School for Good and Evil’ by Somain Chainani. That Never ending series. Most of its reviews agree it’s aimed at primary schoolers, but I’m not sure. Read on for the adult references you missed reading the series as a kid.
The School for Good and Evil
The original! The first book in this (admittedly infinite) series tells the tale of Sophie and Agatha – two best friends, despite their different appearances. Sophie, the blonde princess, dreams of being kidnapped (um, okay?) by the mysterious School Master and whisked away to the School of Good. Her bestie Agatha has black, greasy hair (this is thoroughly reiterated) but when the two girls get taken, she goes to the School for Good and Sophie to Evil. Shock! Horror! A princess who isn’t blonde! This book really is breaking boundaries.
What ensues is can only be called chaos with the princess forced to eat gRuEl and the introvert to make friends with the popular kids – until Sophie snaps, ends up tortured in the dungeons before murdering her captor. Ah yes, what a lovely series for 10 year olds! Surely it can’t get worse…
Sophie decides the only way she can get home is to make out the fittest guy in the school (sounds suspiciously like she just wants a kiss) but he falls in love with Agatha! Admittedly, I did actually enjoy this bit, especially as its the only part of the series where Tedros doesn’t act like an idiot. After her rejection, Sophie decides to go one step further than the friendzone and murder Tedros (I mean, I’ve seen worse break ups) but Agatha wants to keep her boyfriend. With the power of self love and friendship, Agatha eventually makes up with Sophie, then makes out a bit with Sophie before they are magically transported home.
Please remember that they are 12.
A World Without Princes
Book 2! The author’s run out of money so it looks like we’re back in Galvadon! This time, when Sophie and Agatha return after some painful moments in Ye Olde Village, the schools are no longer Co-Ed. The School for Good is now the School for Girls: the ultimate mix of Malory Towers the set of Descendants and an army bootcamp, run by the mysterious new Dean (spot a trend yet?). The school celebrates Sophie and Agatha’s ‘friendship’, the books switching between insisting it’s only that and 10ft tapestries of the girls’ kiss over the walls. I would have much preferred them to just be written as a couple. Lesbians exist! Get over yourself!
Things get interesting when Agatha tries to visit her boyfriend (the thirteen year old running the Boy’s School) in disguise. She walks the thin line between brave and stupid as she voluntarily enters a castle run by unwashed adolescents. I vote stupidity. Later, Sophie tries to enter as well with the help of the coven – the BEST people in the whole series – and a gender changing potion. Impressively, the author manages to describe this process without once mentioning any changes down there. One there, Sophie teams up with Tedros, who eventually tries to kiss her whilst she’s still a boy. This is never mentioned again.
It also comes to light that one of the students at the girl’s school was biologically a boy and used that potion to change. My heart broke during their last words (because of course they died) when they’re describing how hard it was for them to be accepted. Can we PLEASE just have an outwardly gender fluid character without all of this ‘toning down’ crap for younger audiences?
A World Without Princes
The last book of
the series this post! Agatha and Sophie are back in the exhilarating conclusion Book 3 where everything ends is momentarily stalled. Because we’re running out of plot, apparently the sun rising now depends on these teenagers – didn’t we mention before? No pressure there ( they’re age 14 in this book). Since Book 2, Agatha and Tedros are struggling with domestic life back in her home town and Sophie is unhappy in love. In fact, if you took out the magical school, this could be a really moving series that explores friendship, gender and love. BUT NO IT’S FOR 10 YEAR OLDS, BACK TO THE OGRES!
There are many problems with Sophie’s new boyfriend. Aside form being eViL and a part-time mutant ninja turtle, Raphal is controlling, kind of abusive and used to be her headteacher. There’s also the small matter of him being thousands of years old; possibly having an affair with her best friend (sister?) ‘s mum… who is kind of her mum… so he’s like her mum’s ex? Her step dad? I’m confused too. As usual, there’s a lot of messing around: whether Sophie’s Good or not; whether Agatha’s good enough for Tedros; whether the coven are the only competent characters (they are). Although, those three witches are called a ‘threesome’ way too many times for a kid’s book.
The author seemed to have run out of fairytales by now because suddenly we’ve got Peter Pan chatting up Merlin and the Queen of Hearts – although you have to love that wizard. Later on, Tedros looses the ability to call his girlfriend anything other than ‘princess’ (misogynistic or what?) to the extent that Agatha might ditch him for Sophie. I QUOTE: ‘The two of them were giggling and bickering like teenagers in love’. Either make your mind up or learn what a simile is. However, I do love this series, no matter how many plot holes it has (it puts J.K Rowling to shame). I love the characters, the setting, and I’m scarily often quite proud of myself for figuring out a plot before I remember, this is a series for 10 year olds.