The School of Good and Evil is an interesting book – what is essentially a riff on fairytales ends up being a straight adventure story lacking any of the morals upon which it is based; as such, it ends without making a point and contradicting itself and the characters throughout. Less demanding readers will read it as a simple tween romp and enjoy it as such. But more demanding readers may be frustrated by the lack of point of view by the author.
Story: Agatha and Sophie live in an isolated village in the middle of a forest. Every year, the ‘headmaster’ of the School for Good and Evil comes and takes two children in the night to be students in his school. Sophie eagerly wants to go: she’s sure she’ll be a fairy tale princess. Down to Earth Agatha, however, finds the whole thing pathetic. When both girls are taken to the school, Sophie ends up in the school for evil (to be a witch) and Agatha lands in the school for princesses. With both girls sure they are in the wrong place, how will they survive their schoolmates long enough to get back to their village?
Most of the book is a fish-out-of-water story of each girl dealing with the horrors of their situation: beautiful Sophie with the farting/warted/dowdy evils and grounded Agatha dealing with the vain and superficial princesses. There should be a lot to mine here and a lot to be said about not falling into the cliches of either group. But somehow nothing is really said – is Sophie evil in her heart? Is Agatha really purely good despite her frogs and antisocial behavior? Are the princesses, with the callous and selfishness, really good? And are the evils really born that way or made so through cruel treatment? The answer ends up muddled in each of those situations as the story mostly concerns Agatha trying to get home and Sophie stymieing her. Even a point that neither is wholly good or wholly evil fails to materialize in this muddled plot.
In listening to this Audible version (in which the narrator did an excellent job), I kept feeling like there was going to be something deeper than the shallow story on top. The story really lacked nuance, depth, and especially a POV by the author to make this really work for me.