Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked is a fun, lighthearted tale of villainy and virtue. Gilly Cobbler is a thief—but only because her family is short on food; her father’s business has not been good since the royals gave the fairy godmother a monopoly on glass-slipper making. Gilly is not about to let her five siblings starve, so she steals from the rich and gives to her family. Then she is caught and sentenced to the Fairy Tale Reform School, a place run by former villains and rumored to be full of dungeons.
The headmistress is Cinderella’s evil stepmother. The school’s psychiatrist and coach for the fencing team the Evil Queen who tried to kill Snow White. The sea witch teaches dance and etiquette, and the big bad wolf teaches history. All of them are supposed to be reformed, but are they? Strange things are happening at the school and teachers are seen going into the forbidden forest. Gilly wants to know what is going on, first in hopes of blackmailing someone into letting her out early, later because she has made friends and wants to protect them.
The tale is told first-person, present-tense, which can be awkward: I always wonder how they are narrating this and to whom? But then again, this is meant for middle schoolers who have probably not run into the form often enough to worry about it. In any case, once the story gets going, it is too much fun to worry about the tense.
It is a charming story that trips along merrily through its merged fairy tale world. Gilly is an engaging, active character who wastes no time throwing herself into events wherever she is. She quickly makes friends with an array of characters, including a fairy and a goblin, and they band together to find and defeat the enemy terrorizing the school and threatening the princesses who rule the kingdom. There is danger, but it is not so great as to be terrifying, and the school itself sounds like an amazing place to visit (I want to ride a Pegasus!) as well as an interesting one. It looks like Jen Calonita has further stories planned, which is all to the good.
Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked is recommended to middle school students and others who enjoy mixed up fairy tales, adventures, and active heroines.
Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked comes out on March 3rd.