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A Reader of Fictions: Audiobook Review: The School for Good and Evil

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Audiobook Review: The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Author: Soman Chainani
Narrator: Polly Lee
Duration: 13 hrs, 46 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Read: May 22-June 7, 2013
Source: Publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.

Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

The two girls soon 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 among 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 and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

This is one of those times where I am super glad that I went for the audiobook rather than the print, because, though I bet this is fun in print too, I don't think I could have loved it quite so much. Just saying.

Why Did I Read This Book?
First off, there are those two magic words: fairy tale. Put that on a book, and I will probably try to read it at some point. On top of that, the book trailer is astounding, and I don't say that lightly, because most of them make me much less interested in the books.

What's the Story Here?
Sophie and Agatha live in a town beyond the woods. Every four years, two children are taken, one good and one evil. Sophie believes in the rumors and wants desperately to go off and be a princess at the School for Good and Evil, where it is rumored that the two kids go. To prove her goodness, she has befriended Agatha, the witchiest, most evil-looking girl in town. Agatha, however, does not want to go. Of course, you can't stop a fairy tale, and both girls are swept off to the school, as Sophie predicted. What Sophie did NOT predict was that Agatha would be put with the princesses, and that she would go to the school for evil.

How are the Characters?
OMG, Sophie is the worst. Seriously, I wanted to punch her in the face. She's such a snob, and so convinced that prettiness is what makes someone a good person. Chainani has created one of the most selfish characters in fiction. The voice Lee uses for Sophie even sounds exactly like the blonde girl in Stardust, all snooty and self-involved and perfect for the character. For reasons I'll explain later, I do think Sophie was probably the best-drawn character, though, because she has the most realistic character ARC.

Agatha I loved from the beginning, with her cynicism and snark and hatred of cocky princes. She's my kind of heroine. Plus, she's not gorgeous, and that was super satisfying, because heroines don't need to be gorgeous all the time.

The rest of the cast is well-suited to the tale too, falling into their stereotypes of good and evil initially, but most developing depth as the tale continues. Actually, in the end, evil comes off much better in terms of personality, where the princesses remain pretty shallow and appearance-focused.

And the Romance?
So, the romance is pretty much all centered around this guy, Tedros, son of King Arthur. If that's not how you spell his name, don't criticize me, because it was an audiobook and it's not written out ANYWHERE. Anyway, Tedros is a snobby princeling to start, but I was actually shipping him with Agatha pretty hard, though mostly just because I wanted Sophie's nose rubbed in it because she's the worst. Plus, you know my feelings for hate turning to love romance arcs. However, once that ship started coming about, I was less of a fan.

Throughout, I was also nurturing a hope this might go LGBT, with Sophie and Agatha being like "forget Tedros" and falling in love with each other. Alas and alack, there was one moment where I thought that was happening, but no.

What Are My Reservations with this Book?
Much as I loved listening to The School for Good and Evil, and thought much of it was hilarious and clever, I have some serious concerns. No, they're not the similarities to Harry Potter, which do exist but that I didn't find to be overpowering. What upsets me is the overall commentary on beauty and princesses. Agatha starts out as this incredibly talented, intelligent girl, where Sophie simpers and doesn't study. The moment Agatha discovers that she is pretty if she's confident and smiles, she becomes weak, blushing over Tedros constantly and suddenly unable to fight battles, fainting left and right. NO NO NO. Love should make you stronger, not weaker. Meanwhile, Sophie goes from an airhead to monstrously powerful villain in no time. I expected the final message to be more clearly that beauty does not equal good, but by the end apparently Agatha is gorgeous and princess-like, which also means she has to be less of a badass, I guess.

Am I Going to Continue with the Series?

Most definitely, and I will be sticking with the audiobooks. Though I'm not entirely comfortable with all of the moral messages, I really did love this. The fairy tale references, the humor, the action and the awesome narration made this a must listen for me, despite those issues.

How was the Narration?
Freaking AMAZING. Polly Lee is one of my favorite narrators hands down, and I will now make it my mission to listen to anything she's narrated, even the romance novels, because her voice is so pretty. She's British, and her accent is awesome. Plus, she does a ton of great voices, and handled the whole cast incredibly deftly. *bows to Polly Lee's awesomeness*

Sum It Up with a GIF:

Rating: 4/5

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Blogger Tabitha (Pabkins) said...

Your concern over beauty is so spot on I didn't even think about that at the end so much...because I was just so in love with the book. Oh I seriously need to listen to the audio. So the narration and voices were awesome then? I reviewed it also on My Shelf Confessions! The print version.

June 9, 2013 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Awesome review hon!! And you did spell Tedros right. I only know because before I wrote my review I flipped through the book at B&N so I would know how lol!! I loved this narrator and I will also search out audiobooks she's narrated. Sophie was so infuriating, but was like that character that you love to hate. I also thought it might take a LGBT turn too and that would have been really cool. I wasn't really sold on the actual romance of the story. I am definitely going to continue this series on audiobook. The author told me that Polly Lee will be narrating them also!!

June 9, 2013 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have never read this book but it does look intriguing. I found you through Dana of Little Lovely books.

I hope to see you around my blog!

Katelynn Clark

June 9, 2013 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I just couldn't handle this one. I thought the writing was less than stellar and there were too many Wicked parallels. Way too many, yet while entirely missing the point of the story in Wicked. Like you said, Agatha's arc is troubling. I bounced off this one hard. So hard after 50 pages I skipped to the end, read the last chapter, and gave up.

June 9, 2013 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, yeah, that's one thing about audiobooks; they can cover up weakness in writing, so I really can't comment on that. The narrator was amazing, so I didn't notice any issues or stilted language. Also, I'm only familiar with Wicked, the play; the book I loathed. I'll have to think on that.

June 9, 2013 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Bekka said...

Great review :) I actually haven't heard of this one before - and if I did, I certainly had no idea what it's about. It doesn't sounds like my kind of thing though, based on what you said about beauty.

June 9, 2013 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Kristin (Book Sniffers Anonymous) said...

OH MY GOD! I love your GIF at the end. It had me laughing really hard. LOVE IT! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this book. This one seems to have mixed reviews but I love the cover and the book trailer looks like it could be a Tim Burton film. I may have to give this a shot after all.
Kristin @ Book Sniffers Anonymous

June 9, 2013 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger Jaime Lester said...

Best GIF EVER! Seriously, my favorite ever. Love it. And I cannot wait to read this book. I was lucky enough to win this book, and I am on pins and needles just waiting for it to get here. When it does, my husband will have to be warned (again!) that my time will be consumed with yet another book, and that I still love him better! First though, I will make him look at the cover with me. "Honey, isn't it awesome! What do you think? What's your favorite part? Don't you just love it?"

June 10, 2013 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger Nori said...

Oh, this sounds so much better than I thought! I picked up a signed copy at BEA when there was no line at the signing. And I love that you just wish for the whole LGBT thing in places where it could be!

June 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger molly wetta said...

Hmmm that commentary on "pretty" does give me pause, but otherwise this sounds like a cute book. Too bad it didn't go for the queer romance!

June 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Ashley @ The Bibliophile's Corner said...

I love that GIF! I can't wait to read this book. It caught my eye at work the other week and I still have not bought it yet...

June 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I was totally in love with the book too, even though I've got some skepticism about it. The narrator was brilliant. Gah. I liked it so much that my concerns didn't even really impact the rating.

June 10, 2013 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sweet! That's totally not a real name, is it? So weird. Also, you're such a good blogger. I would never go to all that trouble. I would just make up spellings or call everyone "the MC" "The love interest" "The bitchy one" lol. Sophie was a good villain, very fun to hate, you're right!

June 10, 2013 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I didn't go out of my way to get his name lol! I happened to be at B&N and I wanted to check out the illustrations in the book anyways because I heard they were great! I actually looked around online for his name though and couldn't find it. I am super excited to continue the series.

June 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, haha! That makes sense. I should check out the illustrations. I'm missing out on that whole experience. Why do illustrated novels have to have such good audios. I missed out on the pictures in Leviathan and The Graveyard Book too.

June 10, 2013 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow, really? How did you miss it? The book trailer is fucking awesome. Anyway, yeah, you might find that upsetting. We can wait and see what happens in the series, because she might get around to making a point about beauty later. We'll see.

June 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, I love that moment of Stardust so much. The reviews have been very mixed. Some readers felt it was too similar to other things, which I guess I can see but didn't feel. Also, the audio is brilliant.

June 10, 2013 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Thanks! I was pretty happy with it. Hope you enjoy it, though not more than your husband. Haha.

June 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, that's awesome that you nabbed it at BEA. Short lines = win. Seriously, I want a fairy tale where they're like "screw princes!"

June 10, 2013 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup, very cute. I suppose there's always the future for the lgbt spin, though I doubt it.

June 10, 2013 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's super cute. I recommend it!

June 10, 2013 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

Oh I loathe the book Wicked too. It just felt very similar from a character standpoint. Even the way Sophie shortened Agatha's name to Aggie, the way Glinda calls Elphaba Elphie. And I didn't really read enough of Tedros to know if he was like Fiyero's character, but I got the impression from the end the dynamic between the three of them is similar.

It is awkward to read. Like it could have used a lot more editing.

June 10, 2013 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Good point. I didn't even think of Wicked, but I definitely see the comparison now. O_O

Well, I'm glad I went for the audio. The narrator covered up any weaknesses in the writing.

June 10, 2013 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

The moral messages you point out are a bit troubling, especially as this seems to be for a younger (MG?) audience. But I still am super curious about this. Fairy tales and characters that are switched and in contention with one another are aspects that I tend to love. The characters actually remind me a bit of Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked (book and musical). Though more their initial characteristics than the characters they eventually become, I suppose. Still, this sounds like it definitely has potential to be a fun and mostly light read!

June 11, 2013 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, it was supposedly middle grade, but it seemed pretty romance-centric for MG. I mean, I think the kids were 12 to 16, which is young for a YA book, but I don't know. I think it could work for either. Also, yes, they do have a lot in common with Elphaba and Glinda, though the arc is sort of reversed in that they start out as friends and then become enemies.

June 11, 2013 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Micheline said...

Nice! I'm really happy you enjoyed this one overall Christina! I was a bit hesitant to get excited about it at first but after reading some reviews I'm really getting pumped! I am curious though about the commentary on beauty you mentioned. It sounds like the way I felt when watching Snow White & the Huntsman, so I have a feeling it will frustrate me too - glad it wasn't overpowering to your general feelings about the book as a whole though!

June 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

There's no saying what will happen in the later books, which is why I didn't really subtract points for it, since I loved the audiobook version so much. She might get around to it later or something.

June 12, 2013 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I thought this book was going to go LGBT too-so glad someone else was thinking that. I think this would be a fun book to listen to due to its fairy tale esque nature, which always seem to be so fun to read aloud.

June 12, 2013 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Tabitha (Pabkins) said...

I'm definitely going to listen to the audio book sometime. Maybe right before the next book comes out. I simply must hear that snooty Sophie voice!

July 1, 2013 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The snooty voice is hilarious. She does a GREAT job with it. Actually with most of the voices.

July 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I would so sail on that ship. It would need some time to come about, but would be better than Tedros. lol.

July 2, 2013 at 11:45 AM  

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