When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.
I guess I follow New Leaf Literary in enough places to have their books and their promotions leaking through to me more frequently than others. So, I heard about The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani enough times that it sounded cool enough to read. The world is built around kids being taken away to school to graduate as either fairytale princesses and princes, or storybook villains.
One thing about this book is that the cover and the matter and a lot of how it is sold seems very MG. Perhaps the concepts in the book are MG, and you can argue the whole thing is MG, but the sophistication of writing and the overall style of the story felt more YA to me. I am technically “too old” for MG and me reading it would just be completely for fun, but this book wasn’t like that, I felt like it was worth it for me to read.
Probably the most attractive thing in this book is the worldbuilding–I love good worldbuilding. The idea of a school which trained kids to become people from fairy tales and legends sounded attractive enough to almost singlehandedly convince me to read the book and learn more about how the school worked. The mechanics of the architecture and the creatures of the world did turn out quite interesting.
I enjoyed that the author had a clear vision about the point of the story, where it was going, and the distinct personalities of the characters. It was exciting throughout and engaging, and felt worthwhile afterwards, although it lacked that inexplicable ‘wow’ factor at the end, nothing that really left me awed. The school was pretty cool, but it didn’t blow me away like I had hoped.
Each character was very well-implied; I got a very good sense of what they were supposed to be like and the important traits that defined them (and the details that went along with that personality). What they wanted was clearly defined, and there was a lot conveyed through how they interacted with other people. However, I never really got to know them on a personal level–this is okay, writing a story for the reader to spectate rather than get involved in, but of course, it’s less attaching.
Some things that didn’t work so well: Sophie was cast as a stereotypical blonde princess, but she started to get so stereotypical she nearly wasn’t an actual person; it would have been more believable if she was a really girly human rather than a idealism made to fit the stereotype. The first twist in the book is unfortunately a large selling point, so wherever you read a synopsis, or the book matter, it is already spoiled. Perhaps that is okay, to use it to capture attention, but then of course it no longer shocks you or has the same ‘ooh, twist!’ effect; it is instead an ‘I was sold this, now I’m expecting it’ plot point. There are also a couple other cliche twists that were added in the middle (which I won’t spoil), which weren’t done so well.
A random note: I really appreciated that the author of this book was a POC male. Perhaps this is some sort of non-equality-ist of me to differentiate based on race or gender but there truly aren’t a lot of writers like him in this grade level and genre. In the end, writing is writing no matter who the author is or what they are like, and he centered this story around girls’ perspectives without making me notice or complain. Well done, Mr. Chainani. Or if he or the reader wishes me to be more ‘PC’, no extra applause at all.
What was most important overall was that I enjoyed the story–the characters, the mechanics, the ending, the plot–and that it didn’t feel like it was for nothing (like Carry On did, for example). If you think you’d enjoy this genre, I would recommend it. I am going to be checking out the next books in the series soon and continuing to read this story.