Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Flunked


Author: Jen Calonita
Genre: Children's, Supernatural
Series: #1 in the Fairy Tale Reform School series
Type: e-book
Hardcover Page Count: 256
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Source Books - Jaberwocky
First Published: March 3, 2015
First Line: "

Book Description from GoodReads:  Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita.

Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?


Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Source Books - Jaberwocky for providing me with a compimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  This is the first book in a new fantasy series aimed at tweens.  It is filled with magic, mischief and evil characters that readers will recognize from popular fairy tales.  It has an interesting setting (a boarding school for fairy tale misfits) and I'd say it's a combination of the popular TV series 'Once Upon a Time' with its strong fairy tale references and a strong 'hey there' to Harry Potter with it's unique boarding school for magical kids and its strange gaggle of teachers.

The book centres around Gilly, a spunky 12 year old who's easy to root for. She's not a villain but she's not perfect either and since the reader gets to see where Gilly comes from (her family isn't well off since her father's cobbler business lost a major contract) it's easy to connect with her. She's like Robin Hood - she has a heart of gold as she steals from the excessively rich to give to the poor (her family). Her family is very important to her so the reader quickly realizes why she has such a hatred for the Royals -- namely Rella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Beauty -- who run the kingdom in all their finery while her family struggles to put bread on their table.  Gilly is the kind of character that tween readers can get behind and root for and I appreciated that her decisions and actions felt authentic for her age.

Unfortunately Gilly's method of helping her family gets her into trouble and sent away to be 'reformed' at FTRS, Fairy Tale Reform School - a boarding school for misfits where a whole host of former nasty, now reformed, fairy tale characters who try to teach the wickedness out of these kids in order for them to be better citizens of Enchantasia.  

I think that tweens will enjoy recognizing various fairy tale characters and seeing how the author gives her own unique twist on them.  Some of my favourite bits of the book were the little news briefs between chapters about the various teachers at the school, including the infamous step-mothers of Cinderella and Snow White, the Wolf and a sea witch.  It helped give me insight into them without bogging down the story but I will admit that I was a little let down to see how little the former villains were used in the book.

While this is the first book in a new series, Flunked could also easily be a stand alone book in its own right.  The book has a good dose of humour and I enjoyed seeing how the various fairy tale characters were incorporated into the storyline.  There were also a couple of really good action scenes involving unique creatures that brought some suspense to the read.  

Unfortunately I did have some issues with the book.  I found that the book lagged a bit in the middle and the ending felt rather rushed.  I wish I would have gotten a little bit more world building too.  We get the gist of the castle and how things are generally run with the Royals at the helm but I would have liked to have been immersed in their world to get a better feel to it.

While I enjoyed this book, I found that the plot lacked depth but I'll chalk that up to the author focusing on setting up the world and characters for her readers in this first installment of her series.  But for Potter fans expecting something along the lines of Rowling's infamous series, they may feel there's a little lacking in depth of characters and storylines.  I would suggest it's more appropriate for fans of book series such as Sisters Eight and the like. 

Overall this was a good start to a new series.  It has it's issues to work out but I think that these issues could easily be resolved in future books.  By using fairy tale characters I believe it opens up a lot of possibilities for future story lines and I'm eager to see where the author takes her readers next.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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