Author: Soman ChainaniPublisher: HarperCollins
Page Count: 488 Hardcover
Date Published: May 14th 2013
Find it on Goodreads: Brazen
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
I haven't read a full MG novel for a while, so this was a good welcome back into the genre. Intriguing concept, clear main message with other muddled, smaller messages interweaved, and characters easy to get attached to, The School for Good and Evil was a wonderful fairytale escape, however I had some issues with it. Let's talk about the good first:
The world-building was phenomenal. The descriptions were clear, the history not too confusing, and there was always a sense of intrigue and mystery. I loved how familiar fairy tale characters were integrated but not the full focus and how it was all controlled by the Storian and the ever-mysterious School Master. Agatha and Sophie were wonderful, well fleshed out characters and Agatha's development was incredible to 'watch' as she began to see who she truly was.
However, ultimately, I feel like a lot of the themes in this were a bit heavy for MG kids, and if not heavy, at least a bit confusing. There are a few scenes in the book that sexualize Sophie and talk about her 'lean, long legs' and I mean... she's like, 12. At the most, 14. There was also a lot of sexism thrown at us, which I really hope the author is actually bashing and will come up with a way to make all the "princesses are weak and princes must save them" messages into ones that empower girls and make them feel equal, as the way it was written felt like he was ridiculing these sexist ideals. But at the same time, ten year olds may not be able to differentiate between what the author was saying and what he was meaning. Or maybe I'm not giving the kids enough credit. Either way, I hope the second book clears out the foggy messages. Over all, this was a great story, but it was definitely one that I'm going to need to question a bit and see how my rating changes. But for now, 4!