The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is the fairytalesque story of Sophie and Agatha who attend the School for Good and Evil. The twist is that Sophie, who s is beautiful and thinks of herself as a princess and is expecting to go to the School for Good, ends up being placed in the School for Evil whereas reclusive, less traditionally attractive Agatha is placed in the School for Good. Much of the book revolves around the girls’ struggle to adapt to an environment and course of study which feels alien to them.
What I liked
The Sophie Agatha friendship. This relationship is really at the core of the book. Although the girls are very different, they do share a close bond even if they don’t always recognise or acknowledge it. I loved the way their friendship was developed – and tested throughout the book.
The nature of good and evil. Of course, it’s implied that, since the girls were sent to the schools they were, there was obviously some implication of what made Agatha “good” and Sophie “evil.” From various incidents it appears that evil is equated with selfishness and good with consideration for others. I’m not 100% certain that this is the case in real life, but it works consistently and well within the framework of the story. The reader has to ask if Sophie’s character arc is caused by her being in the School for Evil and if under different circumstances she could have become the good, kind person she always believed herself to be.
The love triangle. Normally I become easily bored with love triangles in YA fiction, but the Sophie/Tedros/Agatha one worked very well. Of course by the end you’re not entirely certain which the pairing is. There is even a strong hint that the true love pairing may be Sophie and Agatha themselves, especially as book two is titled “A World Without Princes.”
The balance. It was well done how well Agatha and Sophie’s storylines were balanced. When Sophie is making progress in her aims, Agatha is struggling and vice versa. It is also reflected in the girls’ physical appearances. As Agatha begins to accept her own beauty, Sophie’s physical appearance suffers.
What I didn’t like
There was little I disliked about the School for Good and Evil and will certainly read book two when it comes out this April.
I gave The School for Good and Evil four stars out of five.