The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is a symphony of juxtaposition, pitting free-will against fate, fate against friendship, and friendship against destiny. Quite the enthralling read.
Our chronicle launches on the wings of headless birds and bran biscuits- the collective assets of black-garbed Agatha and best friend Sophie, cucumber juice slathered atop her princessly face. Plunged through a rabbit hole of thieving shadows, trees which invade your personal bubble, skeletons that squawk, the unlikely pair tumbles upon the School for Good and Evil- a haven for those destined to fairytale glory. As Sophie relinquishes her princess-pink frock, reluctantly donning robes fit to turn Medusa to stone, Agatha flounders in “Princess Etiquette”. Their enrollments must have gotten switched, these schools can’t be right!
Or are they righter than the duo ever imagined?
The first 487 pages of this book were great and, at a nocturnal hour far too late to admit, I still lay ensnared in its laugh-out-loud prose. This is no accomplishment to be taken lightly; I am a high schooler, against my better judgment, enrolled in every honors class available. My usual sleeping arrangements find me nestled in the papery embrace of a biology textbook. So, it’s to be assumed, The School for Good and Evil seemed pretty good plopped atop the billows of my comforter when at last I acquiesced to sleep.
Upon awaking three hours later, I began to seriously reconsider the merits of any novel which slashed my beauty sleep in thirds. Unsurprisingly, I still found them plentiful, clutching the book to my chest as I bounced out the door. For all I know there could have been a Martian landing in the Delaware River this morning, that’s how enthralled I was as my bus made its daily trek across I-95.
I slogged through my day, blurting out “Italy” when questioned as to Shakespeare’s birthplace- and not caring. The School for Good and Evil had changed me. It got me, articulated that craving for a glorious existence which kept me plowing away at textbooks day and night. Hunched over a bathroom sink at 2: 30 a.m., head still reeling from 335 pages of brilliant plotting, I was one cup of sugar away from adorning the windowsill with gingerbread hearts.
And why shouldn’t I? The brilliant characterization probed the depths of what it means to be good. After all, who couldn’t feel for the thirteen year old girl, whisked from an unloving home, doomed to toil endlessly in an effort to please her prince, a bronzed heartthrob destined to hate her on account of a factor beyond her control? Something so elemental, so intermeshed with her soul that it can’t be bedazzled into oblivion.
Though the ending was grotesquely unfulfilling (dissolving into light? This isn’t Star Trek), what better way to peddle the trilogy’s second installment?
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani: Is it who we are or what we do that defines us?