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review 2017-02-02 00:00
The School for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

1/2 stars. Doesn't even deserve that.

I seriously considered not adding this book, it was that bad, but I guess that people deserve to see the bad reviews so that they can decide if they want to read it.

The premise for this book was very good, but the execution was a fail.

I kept thinking of the characters as being sixteen at least, Sophie is obsessed with looks and frequently wears what is described to be extremely immodest clothing--not something that I think is particularly appropriate in a middle grade novel, especially since the characters are somewhere between the ages of eleven and fourteen. And all of the girls in the 'good' side are obsessed with boys. Not just normal middle school crushes, but ready-to-get-married-and-have-sex obsessed. This review by Becky, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/826608690?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1 has a lot of good points to it that I didn't notice, or didn't quite catch as serious as they were, especially at the problems Becky points out at the end of her review.

Here are a few other problems I had.

This level of creepiness does not belong in the kid's section. I liked a lot of the super creepy points like that if they failed the characters would be turned into objects or animals, but that is beyond creepy for kids ages 9-12.

The stereotypes could have been played for further. Some of the best villains are the most beautiful. That is something that I thought the author could have played very well with Sophie, but he chose not to. Either the characters are chosen purely by look or purely by personality. If it was by look than Sophie would have been put in the school for good with all of the catty annoying girls, and Agatha would have gone into the school for evil with the people endeavoring to be the worst people they could be. If it was based on personality only, than the girls were put in the right schools (Sophie is vain and selfish, and perfectly poised to become an evil queen, while Agatha is humble and kind, and always sees the best in others, even her dreadful friend and a gargoyle that tried to kill her,) while all (or almost all) of the other characters were put in the wrong schools. Either way there was a big plot hole in this regard. I also felt that, with the schools the way they were, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast (both tales were mentioned) would have had to have been stories of failure, and here's why. The Evil Queen is beautiful, so with the way that this book as organized, she should have been good, which means that she could have gone through the school for good, but then become evil, so, because she didn't do what she was supposed to do, the Snow White fairy tale should have been hidden from the students at the school. The same goes for Beauty and the Beast. The beast is ugly, hideous, which means, by the rules that this book set up, he should have been evil. But I imagined that when he and Beauty fell in love, what ever mogrifying enchantment that the school put on him would have come off, showing that he was good all along, and therefore putting shame on the school. Honestly, I think that the story of Beauty and the Beast from this perspective could have been far more interesting than what the author gave us. Can someone please write that? I'd enjoy a book like that if they also didn't include the inappropriate stuff that Becky's review discussed.

The ending was a huge mess. I'm willing to buy that either the birds put Sophie and Agatha in the wrong schools and then didn't want to admit to making a mistake, or that the story dude decided to give a beautiful villain a try to try and even the odds, but even so, the ending was a mess. We were fed this idea that Sophie was going to become evil, and that was what I wanted, but the whole idea that the good must be physically beautiful did not work at all. If evil is physically ugly, that how could Sophie be so evil? (Which she appears to have been, since she killed a wolf and destroyed a magic goose because the goose didn't want to grant her selfish wish to force Agatha into the evil school, though that really should have been better explained.) Then Sophie became physically ugly, and felt a desire to return to good, that didn't make any sense. What I wanted was for Sophie to give into her bad intentions and her jealousy, and to embrace evil in the end. What I wanted was for Agatha to become good, and become a strong leader so that Tedros fell in love with her strength, and her ability to see good in everyone and everything, and the fact that she didn't fall at his feet because he was handsome. What we got was this weird waffling from Sophie, and Tedros and Agatha falling in love for literally no reason. And Sophie and Agatha apparently becoming lovers? I know there are a lot of people who will celebrate this book just because it had an apparent homosexual pairing, but while I enjoyed their friendship (or rather, Agatha's being a friend to Sophie while Sophie takes advantage of Agatha in every way) I honestly didn't buy them being 'in love.' And because the premise appears to be good, I feel that Christians deserve some warning for that ending. I honestly didn't know what was going on from the moment Sophie turned ugly and Agatha was seen as beautiful. Suddenly Agatha and Tedros were in love, when they hated each other before, and yes, Agatha's exposing her cheating with Sophie to save his life could have helped to warm him to her, but she suddenly found herself inarticulate in his presence, and he suddenly decided that he loved her, with absolutely no middle ground, and all of a sudden, Agatha stopped wanting to go home. The whole point of the book was that Agatha didn't want to be there, as Sophie should have grown more evil, Agatha should have grown (slowly) more enigmatic so that people were willing to follow her. And what had previously been a very simple, fairly well-built world came crashing down. Suddenly there were no rules and the action didn't make sense.

The other thing that didn't make sense was that, the wolves were supposed to be failed good students and the fairies were supposed to be failed evil students, but, while I could buy the fairies, the only one that did anything of any importance was the one that was from Sophie and Agatha's village and bit pretty girls, the wolves are another matter. As Becky's review pointed out, one forced Sophie into the uniform, implying that he stripped her and put on the proper outfit. That is sick and evil. One was the torturer who took pleasure in hurting people in the most unimaginable ways. That is sick and evil. But while those two things can be argued away as that the wolves, being properly good, would enjoy hurting those who were in training to become properly bad, the one thing that cannot be explained away was that, when Agatha came to the evil school to try to get Sophie so that they could escape, she was chased by a wolf, and climbed onto the roof to escape it. The wolf then told her that there were worse things than wolves and left her to be, he assumed, eaten by the gargoyles. If the wolves were really good, then you'd think it would have helped Agatha back into the castle and then forced her back to the school for good. I just don't buy what the author was trying to sell. Plus, there is one male fairy and a bunch of female ones, but there only appear to be male wolves, and I find the uneven gender fail-rate to be rather unbelievable, and sort of sexist against men, because it implies that a lot more men cannot control their propensity for bad. Given that more men then women are in jail for serious crimes, I would find an imbalance believable if it were not so extreme.

My final complaint, and I'm sure I have missed things that I initially had a problem with because I waited so long to write this review, is that the book, through it's characters repeatedly tells us that all children are either good or bad, and ignores the fact that all children have both good and bad in them, but usually learn to do evil as they get older, from the adults in their lives. I actually was okay with the characters saying this, because I thought that the first book would be about Sophie becoming evil and Agatha becoming more confident, the second book would be about Agatha and Sophie fighting until Agatha managed to win Sophie and the other 'evil' children's love and respect, and bring them back to good, and I thought the third book would be about them trying to defeat the school master and end the school. But the ending of this book was so jumbled and confusing that it didn't really have an end, and the premise of the next book honestly sounds boring, and I have no intention of continuing with the series. And while my idea for the layout of the series may have been predictable, I honestly would have really enjoyed seeing it happen, but this book was an utter failure with the ending, and I don't see why the ending that we got needed to have a sequel.

So, in conclusion, the premise was a very good one, and Agatha was a wonderful character, but the plot from just about the half-way point is awful and confusing, and the book has some extremely creepy/disgusting implications (as pointed out in the review that I linked above,) and I find myself wondering why the heck the publishers would publish this as a kids book. Heck, why would they publish this at all? I would love to see someone with a better sense of plot, morality, and the knowledge that sometimes making characters be naked is inappropriate and can become creepy and sick, redo this book, preferably with the predictable plot-line that I laid out, but any attempt to fix this mess of a book would probably infringe on copyright, so I guess we're stuck with this terrible garbage where a wonderful story could have been.

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review 2016-06-21 02:40
The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After
The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

Rereading my previous reviews of the first two books in this YA fantasy trilogy, my issues remain unchanged in terms of execution: pacing, dramatic moments that don't make a big enough impact, and murky worldbuilding. However, this book is my least favorite of the series because, unlike the first two, it doesn't subvert fairytale tropes in as interesting a way. Although the final message--that one doesn't need a love interest to be happy--is solid and probably still unique for such a story, I miss the play with gender and sexuality present in the first couple books. In the end, it's also still unclear to me what this world's view of Evil actually is.

 

Does it sound like I'm being too serious and picky for a YA novel? Really it's just difficult to discuss a book that does question some major storytelling dichotomies without getting heavy. But there are also so many amazing YA novels and worlds out there that we know what the genre can do.

 

The book still surprised me, as they all have, and Agatha in particular is a complex heroine, with many admirable and relatable moments. She has an inner strength that it's part of Sophie's journey to discover in herself. However, I struggled with a key sequence where Sophie and Agatha feel very suddenly to have changed course. It was also a pain to read Agatha and Tedros's parts in the beginning; they're annoying as hell as they bicker. A lot of the comedy falls flat for me.

 

I see this book is highly rated on amazon, with many saying it's their favorite of the trilogy. I can't agree, but when the movie comes out, I'll look forward to the adaptation as these books have felt more like movies from the start.

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url 2016-04-29 02:22
Big News: I'm Going to Be in a Book!


HUGE news! I am going to be in a book! Specifically, I’m participating in the YA villain-themed anthology, Because You Love to Hate Me curated by Ameriie, which is being published in July 2017 by Bloomsbury simultaneously in the US and UK, and as an audiobook in the US and UK. I’m not participating as an author but as a booktuber/blogger. More information below the cut! Aaaah!



You can check out Ameriie's announcement video here (and the others at their individual channels & spaces). Also theofficial Publisher's Weekly announcement here.

Add Because You Love to Hate Me to your Goodreads shelf here.

THE AUTHORS INVOLVED:

  • Sarah Enni: Sarah is the creator & host of the First Draft Podcast, and will be making her debut YA writing appearance in BYLTM. 
 
You’d think that might be all the contributors to the anthology, but Because You Love to Hate Me is different from most anthologies. The above authors will be writing short stories based on villain-themed prompts provided by booktubers!

THE BOOKTUBERS INVOLVED: 

All booktubers will be paired with one author. They will write an introduction to that author’s story, and we’ve all already provided prompts for our authors to use as inspiration. You'll find out later who is paired with whom, and which villains are being used :).

Let me rave about this anthology. Can I just say how much I love this sort of creative collaboration among readers and authors? We’ve seen it in the community for things like Litographs fanart T-shirts, extra content based on reader votes / input, paperback pages printed as appreciation for reviewers, etc., but this is first story collaboration that I know of, and I think that’s really neat.

So, not only is this anthology cool because of the creative collaboration, but it’s also cool because OF ALL THOSE AUTHORS. Renée Ahdieh? Gorgeous, sensual writing that can add really great layers to characters and here, to a villain we love to hate! Soman Chainani? The School for Good and Evil has a great atmospheric start, and Chainani has already switched up the moral good/evil sides—I’m sure his villain will be compelling. Susan Dennard? Everyone at the Truthwitch launch had mentioned how the villain was intriguing and complex, and Susan will create something equally, if not more, exciting for this anthology! Marissa Meyer has already written a book on the villain of the Lunar Chronicles (aka Fairest), so her villain will be equally compelling. Uh, did you not see me ramble on about my love for Serpentine? Cindy Pon creates wonderful, multi-layered characters, and I can’t wait to read the villain she will write! Victoria Schwab! Vicious! Blurring the lines between what’s right and wrong, and who’s the bad guy – sounds like a recipe for creating another great villain! Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series is on my all-time favorites list, and of course I’m excited to read about her villain! Adam Silvera has already dealt with moral ambiguity in More Happy Than Not: how does a place like the Leteo Institute exist? With his character-centric focus, Adam will create a great villain too. Andrew Smith has been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, so duh, he’ll create an awesome work. April Genevieve Tucholke has gorgeous, atmospheric writing and River from Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was a fascinating, multi-layered morally ambiguous character, so hello awesome villain-to-be! Nicola Yoon created multi-layered characters in Everything, Everything and I’m excited to see where she’ll go next after such a powerhouse debut! Sarah Enni is making her YA fiction debut with the anthology, and that's really exciting too!

BUT YOU KNOW WHO I’M MOST EXCITED FOR? Ameriie. I’ve been Ameriie’s critique partner for about three and a half years now, and all of her work is fantastic! Great writing and characterization, fast-paced, multi-layered plots, thematic works with story at the forefront, and I can heap on so, so much more praise. She's definitely an upcoming author to watch :), and I can't wait to see what see comes up with too.

ARE YOU AS EXCITED FOR BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME AS I AM? I hope so!
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url 2016-03-31 13:16
Young Adult Adaptations That Will Become Successful

As the release dates for the adaptations of the final books in The Maze Runner series and the Divergent trilogy approach, people are hungry for the successor to the young adult franchise throne. After The 5th Wave movie adaptation yielded less than expected in the box office, some film analysts have written that no YA adaptation could truly follow in the footsteps of The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter and that the young adult adaptation market was dead.

It's not.

(Will future films ever reach the level of success that those "Big 3" did? I don't know that anyone can make a prediction of that magnitude, but films like Divergent, Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Paper Towns, etc. were still considered successful even without becoming a "Big 3." And I do think that future films have, at least, the potential to reach that level of success.)

Most of the aforementioned articles, though intended to analyze the future success of the YA adaptation market, fail to take into account the perspective of its target audience, avid fans of young adult books. While they may not live up to the massive success of Harry Potter, these adaptations have the potential to do well and have even caught the attention of Hollywood studios.

Here's to hoping that they're greenlit soon.

 

 

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses.

Movies like War Horse (also an adaptation) and Seabiscuit prove that there are plenty of filmgoers who find stories focusing on horses compelling. Like Stiefvater's writing, the story premise has a cinematic quality, and may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games who don't necessarily want another dystopian tale but appreciate the danger inherent to The Scorpio Races. Stiefvater would appeal to Hollywood backers looking for an already established fandom; she has sold millions of copies of her books and maintains an active online presence. As for merchandise, which has typically been associated with several YA films, I can picture water horse stuffed animals and the ribbons that riders wear sold alongside the t-shirts and artwork that would accompany any film. Stiefvater has also posted a recipe for November cakes, a treat written into the culture of Thisby.

Status: In September 2015, Focus Features announced that Matt Sobel would direct The Scorpio Races based off the screenplay written by Jack Thorne.

2. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani: Two best friends are kidnapped to attend the legendary School for Good and Evil, which trains its ordinary students to become fairy tale heroes and villains.

Technically, The School for Good and Evil is middle grade, not young adult, but it should still appeal to YA fans, especially given its premise. The success of series like Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles and Sarah Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses prove that the young adult market remains interested in fresh spins on fairy tales while popular TV shows like ABC's Once Upon a Time (now in its sixth season) highlight the interest of a mainstream adult audience. The School for Good and Evil also has its own legion of fans: in a promotional article for the trilogy's conclusion, which was published in July 2015, Publisher's Weekly reported that over 500,000 copies had been sold worldwide. Soman Chainani hosts an online Youtube show, Ever Never TV, to promote the books and interact with his fans.

Status: Universal Studios optioned The School for Good and Evil, but as Chainani wrote on his website this past January, the script is currently being rewritten.

3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: A girl follows travel instructions written in envelopes from her dead aunt, which she must open one by one, and backpacks through Europe without a cell phone or guidebook.

I was in eighth grade when the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants adaptation was released, and I can still remember my excitement. Capturing a similar adventurous summer feel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is in the unique position as a YA contemporary novel of appealing to fans who don't want another teary If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars but who liked the recent journey-focused story in Paper Towns. Fans of 13 Little Blue Envelopes will love watching the characters come to life onscreen while a wider audience, unfamiliar with the novel's contents, will be caught in the suspense of not knowing what instructions the next envelope would contain. All moviegoers can imagine what adventure they would plan or take with their own set of envelopes. As one of the early YA writers and a close friend of YA author celebrity John Green, Maureen Johnson has a significant fanbase that should also draw Hollywood's attention.

Status: In conjunction with New Line Cinema, Alloy Entertainment purchased the rights to develop 13 Little Blue Envelopes as a feature film in April 2015.

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A girl no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.

The rich setting -- a private island off the coast of Massachusetts -- calls to mind the previously successful adaptation of Gossip Girl and the notoriety of the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard. Slipping into the lives of the wealthy Sinclairs enables a kind of escapist fantasy even as the truth and the main character's confusion lend a heartbreaking edge to the suspense of what happened two summers ago. Random House came up with a catchy slogan to encompass the fanbase: if anyone asks you how the book ends, just LIE. Like Maureen Johnson, E. Lockhart is a well-established YA author and friends with John Green, whose blurb on the first edition proclaims that We Were Liars is "utterly unforgettable."

Status: Imperative Entertainment hired Stephanie Shannon to write the screenplay in April 2015.

Bonus: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, The Fever by Megan Abbott, This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, and Just One Day/Year by Gayle Forman are also movie and tv adaptations widely held as promising.

(Ask me more about these, and I'll tell you why ;)).

Bonus (X2): Set for 2016 releases, the tearjerker A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, fan-favorite Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, and star-studded Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs look like promising adaptations as well. And this year we can prove to all the naysayers of YA and YA films that no, they are not dead even if they don't reach the "Big 3" level of success.

Ah, but now you're asking, "So, Christina, what are you trying to do? Is this a call to action? Is this a letter to studios? Are you updating all of us on the status of these films?"

It sort of is a call to action. I wish studios were listening. Sometimes I think that what gets made into a film, or what's optioned, are things that I can't ever actually imagine playing out on the big screen - like whoever optioned the book wasn't actually envisioning the movie but just keeps hoping for the success of the Big 3.

But I'd like to hope that's not what all the options mean; I'd like to hope that the YA market stays alive and well. I'd like to hope that the movies above will eventually get greenlit, as I think that they particularly would be successful. And I am updating y'all on the status of those adaptations, so that we can all discuss the awesome potential of those adaptations and maybe our collective enthusiasm will push for those books to be made into their respective adaptations. Maybe a studio representative will see this post (ha ha ha), and push for those adaptations as well. Who knows? But above all, I do love to discuss YA books, so let's chat!

Do you think that those adaptations will be successful? What books would you add to the list?

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review 2016-01-19 16:58
The Last Ever After (School For Good and Evil, #3)
The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

Let me tell you that this book starts in an amazing way: Have you ever wondered what happens after a supposedly "happy ever after"?
Well look no further, this story's beginning definitely focus on that part of Agatha and Tedros story.
Is it all flowers and fluffy kittens?
Well... no.
After all Agatha does live in a cemetery and her cat that bald and wrinkly thing has very specific tastes: He's not a fan of princesses and princes -_-

So once again the author picks up in a bunch of stereotypes and gives them a swift kick in the head.
It's great! ;)

By now you're probably wondering if I found this part so great, why did I gave it only a three star rating...
Well,... THE STORY IS BLOODY LONG!
And it gets being long, by constantly undermining all that is happening. It got frustrating. It got tiresome.
By the middle of the thing I was ranting with the book: there was a couple of dozens of pages... strike that, make that two/ three hundred pages that should have been cut!
Longer isn't better, when you start getting annoyed by the constant back and forward sentimental activity  messing with your feelings that the author introduced here. There were times I felt I was reading a New Adult novel with a very twisted love triangle. Argh.

The introduction of the "old" fairy tale characters was a good point: the interaction between our new heroes and the others provided some comic realief... exception made to the moments that were heartbreaking.

I liked that once again the author made sure to spread a lot of positive messages throughout the whole story:
_ No to body shaming.
_Yes to friendship.

The biggest problem for me and the reason why this gets only a three star, is that despite all the positive messages that this has, I cannot help ignore, that the main subject of the book, the relationship between Agatha, Sophie and Tedros ended up being a big mess. Especially when it comes to Sophie's part. After all that she had been through, I was expecting more from her: More growth, less idiocy.
What she does to her "friends" is not something a friend would do. And if that could be explained by where she ends up by the end of the story, I was never fully convinced of what ends up happening.

As for other positives, there was this twist, that I never saw coming, and that I loved.
Really well done, that.

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