I haven't read very many middle grades books. In fact, I suspect I haven't picked one up since reading the first few Harry Potter Books (the later booI haven't read very many middle grades books. In fact, I suspect I haven't picked one up since reading the first few Harry Potter Books (the later books are definitely not middle grade.) I loved Harry Potter, for the most part, and I sometimes read young adult fantasy searching for something that scratches the same itch. I'm happy to say that The school for good and evil meets my criteria.
In this story, fairy tales are real. Not only are they real, but schools exist for training future fairy tale characters - one school for the good, and one for evil. Students who are chosen for the schools are told they are 100% evil or good. Our heroines are Agatha and Sophie. Sophie believes she is destined to be a princess, and wants her friend Agatha to come along and go to the school for evil. Agatha was my favorite - witness the following exchange:
No one says you're evil, Agatha," Sophie sighed. "You're just different."
Agatha narrowed her eyes. "Different how?" "Well, for starters you only wear black." "Because it doesn't get dirty." "You don't ever leave your house." "People don't look at me there." "For the Create-a-Tale Competition, your story ended with Snow White eaten by vultures and Cinderella drowning herself in a tub." "I thought it was a better ending." "You have me a dead frog for my birthday!" "To remind you we all die and end up rotting underground eaten by maggots so we should enjoy our birthdays while we have them. I found it thoughtful." "Agatha, you dressed as a bride for Halloween." "Weddings are scary." Sophie gaped at her. "Fine, so I'm a little different," Agatha glared. "So what?" Sophie hesitated. "Well, it's just that in fairy tales, different usually turns out, um... evil."
Upon arrival at the school, the girls find themselves sorted into the opposite of where they thought they belonged. Was it a mistake? Can pretty Sophie survive such classes as "Uglification" and "Henchman training?" But of course, all is not as it seems. Students are not as easy to categorize as the school would like. A battle is coming... but what will be the outcome?
The writing was beautiful - not so simplistic that I felt I was reading a children's book (though, of course, I was.) Agatha and Sophie both struggle with their concept of identity. Agatha finds that she has more inside her than just the evil she had always believed, as in this passage.:
Looking down at the monster, just another lost child, Agatha thought of all the creatures in this world. They didn't follow orders because they were loyal. They didn't help princesses because they were loving. They did because someday,maybe loyalty and love would be repaid with a second chance at being human. Only through a fairy tale could they find their way back. To their imperfect selves. To their storyless lives. She too was one of these animals now, searching for the way out. The gargoyle lay its head in her lap. As the burning menagerie closed in, a monster and child wept in each other's arms.
Highly recommended, particularly to those looking for a children's fantasy that has some depth, but really I think almost anyone would enjoy this. It is the first in a series, and I plan to read the next soon. ...more
I have never read Allie Brosh's blog. I have seen her drawings before, mostly on a friend's facebook feed, but I can't seem to keep up with blogs. WelI have never read Allie Brosh's blog. I have seen her drawings before, mostly on a friend's facebook feed, but I can't seem to keep up with blogs. Well, now I've read it, and I highly recommend checking it out!
I'm not always a fan of humor, but in this case the author's voice is so strong that it works - she makes even the most absurd situation believable. I especially enjoyed the bits about her dogs, and I'm not even a dog person! I gave it to my husband to read right away, and I'm hoping he likes it just as much....more
I couldn't bring myself to finish this one. I was really excited to read it - I'm a feminist, and almost the same age as Caitlin. I am frustrated by tI couldn't bring myself to finish this one. I was really excited to read it - I'm a feminist, and almost the same age as Caitlin. I am frustrated by the fact that the college students I teach refuse to identify with feminism, or indeed to admit that sexism exists. But this book... I just couldn't.
The biggest issue to me was the language. Look, I'm not a prude. I don't mind a curse word or two, and I don't really care if you want to talk frankly about sex etc. But to be honest she struck me as one of those sorts of comedians who have to prove they can be just as disgusting as the boys (Sarah Silverman etc) Unfortunately, I don't care for those sorts of men, and I don't like it in a woman either. Quite frankly it started making me uncomfortable around the point that she insisted all women reach a point when they name their vaginas (do they? really? I haven't taken a poll or anything, but I doubt it's so widespread.)
As a woman who is childfree I found her chapters on motherhood to be a bit muddled. I did enjoy the chapter on her abortion, which I found to be refreshingly free of spin.
I liked the bits on her childhood (especially the character of her younger sister!) As the book went on she started to strike me as someone I would not like to meet (another reviewed opins that Caitlin is the sort of extrovert that introverts most fear getting trapped with... and I can totally see that.) I made it halfway and then skimmed. I wish I could recommend this book, but I simply can't. There are much better books on new wave feminism out there!...more
I've read John Scalzi's blog for years, but I must confess that this is the first of his novels I've actually picked up. I knew the moment I saw the tI've read John Scalzi's blog for years, but I must confess that this is the first of his novels I've actually picked up. I knew the moment I saw the title that I would be reading this book - I'm an enormous Star Trek fan (as well as a huge fan of sci-fi television in general).
The book really is an enormous love letter to the genre. The plotline? Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense. This is ok, as most everything in the book is of dubious scientific value by design (tv shows don't have to make sense!) The book is funny. Not, perhaps, laugh out loud funny, but a type of humor that really appeals to me (and I can't think when the last time I read a good humorous sci-fi novel might have been.)
Four stars for entertaining plot and clever use of language. One star off because the characters ran together for me (their personalities were not very well defined.) In addition, the codas at the end weren't necessary for me - the actual story ends with a perfect line, and I would have been happy to leave it there. The codas weren't bad, it's just that I was done with the story by that point.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves trek, as well as fans of humorous science fiction....more
I listened to the audio version. I don't know how the experience would be otherwise, but I loved listening to her read the stories. I love Tina Fey inI listened to the audio version. I don't know how the experience would be otherwise, but I loved listening to her read the stories. I love Tina Fey in general - I think she's smart, and she she says a lot of things that had me (as an assertive-type lady in her thirties) nodding in agreement. My husband loved the book too, but well - it's possible he might have a type. Highly recommended!...more