Proud to be a tea-sippin' nerd of a mommy!
Proud to be a tea-sippin' nerd of a mommy!

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1)

By Jen Calonita

Would you send a villain to do a hero's job?


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.  Gilly is a 12 year old with a history of petty theft. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months.  But she soon learns there is a battle brewing, and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?

I received an advance review copy from publisher via NetGalley. A HUGE thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for this opportunity to read and review. 

I think this new series has the potential to give Shannon Hale's books or Chris Colfer's books a run for their money. However, this story ended up being underwhelming. 

The chapters in the book provide suspects regarding who's behind the mysterious attacks in the school. However, they do not spend much time exploring the characters or the school itself (Build this place up like Hogwarts! It could be really cool!). I found most of the characters had little depth. The only one I liked was Maxine the goblin who's insecurity, loyalty to her friends, and longing to fit in could resonate strongly with many middle-grade girls (and adult girls). Otherwise, there is little time spent at all getting the know the characters. Thus relationships between them does not add interest in the story. But the biggest disappointment was Flora, head mistress of Fairy Tale Reform School and former evil stepmother to Cinderella. She comes off extremely shallow. After reading Colfer explore these fairy tale villains in his books, I was definitely hoping for more depth and exploration of the line between villain and hero.

I also found very little surprises to the story. Most of the plot line could be figured out. Everything was done so quickly. The author does not spend time casting doubt or exploring other ideas. Instead, the plot plows quickly from one suspect to the next and gives readers no chance to see much beyond. I never felt a part of this enchanted world. 

I felt there was a lot of telling but less showing, which is disappointing. I really wanted to sit in on classes like dragon slaying, fencing, pegasus riding lessons, etc. There was so much potential. There were also good pairings of which former villains were teaching which classes. The sea witch teaching dance lessons? Write this out! The few classes we got to read about were both cut short. Calonita could have done so much!

If this book wants to make its mark besides other well-known fairy tale books, it needs to build up the world and its characters. There is little new ground explored that other fairy-tale books haven't already marked out. What is unique about this world? Why should I read this over a Shannon Hale novel? The genre of twists on classic fairy tales is very hot right now, but this book needs to find a way to differentiate itself from the others otherwise it will become white noise. 

I loved the concept of Fairy Tale Reform School. I thought there were very cute additions within the story, like the scrolls inserted between chapters. There were lots of great ideas. However, they did not get much past the "idea" phase. I believe I would read a second book of this series, but I would hope there would be more exploration. I want more show and less tell.

My novels:

"Descendants of Avalon" 

Released via Inklings Publishing 

May 2018

"Heir of the Heretic"

("The Forgotten" volume 2)

Reviewed and awarded the

2016 Indie Editor's Choice

by the Historical Novel Society.

Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.

Reviewer for:

Historical Novel Society Volunteer

NetGalley Professional Reader

Reviews Published
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Challenge Participant

Top Goodreads Reviewer

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