From the Wish & Wander series

An overworn concept ineptly executed.

A self-absorbed, risk-averse teen with a secret crush finds herself reliving the last day of a class trip to Paris.

Atop the Eiffel Tower, Eve, 14, summons the nerve to tell Jace she likes him only to discover him kissing her best friend, Reggie. Eve witnesses pretty, popular Reggie buy a love lock to seal her romance with Jace from a mysterious palm reader, who gives Eve a key and cryptic advice. Later, Eve uses her key to open the lock and hurls it in the Seine. Next morning, she awakens to relive the awful day, the first of many repeats that lead her to focus on what she has power to change, including her reaction to her parents’ imminent divorce. As each iteration brings new developments and oracular pronouncements from the palm reader, Eve discovers she’s not the only one reliving that day. Borrowing a popular plot device familiar from the film Groundhog Day (1993) and studded with Parisian tourist-attraction references, the novel fails to persuade. Eve and the challenges she must overcome—parental divorce, unfamiliar foods, jealousy, and lack of empathy—are real but universal, too commonplace to merit occult intervention, the stakes too low to justify the effort. Repetition reinforces both the book’s structural weaknesses and Eve’s character flaws. Eve appears white; while a few names and references to skin color and/or hairstyle imply diversity, characters are largely interchangeable. A concluding paragraph hints at a sequel set in Rome.

An overworn concept ineptly executed. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63163-437-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 3

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and...

Good has won every fairy-tale contest with Evil for centuries, but a dark sorcerer’s scheme to turn the tables comes to fruition in this ponderous closer.

Broadening conflict swirls around frenemies Agatha and Sophie as the latter joins rejuvenated School Master Rafal, who has dispatched an army of villains from Capt. Hook to various evil stepmothers to take stabs (literally) at changing the ends of their stories. Meanwhile, amid a general slaughter of dwarves and billy goats, Agatha and her rigid but educable true love, Tedros, flee for protection to the League of Thirteen. This turns out to be a company of geriatric versions of characters, from Hansel and Gretel (in wheelchairs) to fat and shrewish Cinderella, led by an enigmatic Merlin. As the tale moves slowly toward climactic battles and choices, Chainani further lightens the load by stuffing it with memes ranging from a magic ring that must be destroyed and a “maleficent” gown for Sophie to this oddly familiar line: “Of all the tales in all the kingdoms in all the Woods, you had to walk into mine.” Rafal’s plan turns out to be an attempt to prove that love can be twisted into an instrument of Evil. Though the proposition eventually founders on the twin rocks of true friendship and family ties, talk of “balance” in the aftermath at least promises to give Evil a fighting chance in future fairy tales. Bruno’s polished vignettes at each chapter’s head and elsewhere add sophisticated visual notes.

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and flashes of hilarity. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-210495-3

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

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