By Jen Calonita
Release Date: March 3rd, 2014
Genre: Children's Fiction
Source: eARC via Netgalley
Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked is a quirky adaptation of your usual, run-of-the-mill fairytales. Gillian Cobbler, who is a shoemaker’s daughter, lives with her large family in a boot. While her father might be famous for inventing the glass slipper, the Cobbler family has fell on hard times because Princess Ella (Cinderella) has pretty much unwittingly put her family out of business by having her fairy-godmother make all the glass slippers in Enchantasia. As a means to help feed her family, Gilly steals from royals. Nothing too big. A little bread here to feed her siblings, maybe a few pretty trinkets during her sisters’ birthdays. But one day, the law catches up with her and she’s sent to Fairy Tale Reform School, where villains are rehabilitated, so that she can straighten out her ways.
While at the school, Gilly meets several new friends, as well as some of the former-villians themselves, such as the no-longer-wicked stepmother, the formerly-evil queen, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Sea Witch. It’s during her course at the school that she and her friends start to notice fishy happenings, such as the Wicked Stepmother sneaking off on her own. Before long, mysterious alarms are set off and accidents start to happen. Eventually, Gilly hears a cryptic message, claiming that danger would befall FTRS. Worse yet, with the Anniversary Ball coming up and all the royal princesses attending, someone could get hurt. It’s up to Gilly and her friends to get to the bottom of things before disaster strikes.
I liked the creative promise this book held. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and it was especially cute seeing this author’s take the genre, particularly in the children’s literature category. I liked the fact that we even got glimpses into the lesser-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes – Gilly’s family, about living in the shoe, is the perfect example. I liked the idea of a reform school and that the villains in the story aren’t always going to be bad, that there could be something more to their story. It’s just a cute, different perspective and the sheer imagination that was in the story could certainly keep a child invested.
That said, the imagination is about where the praises ended for me. I liked Gilly and Jax and even a few of the lesser mentioned side characters and I liked that that there was plenty of action in each chapter to keep my interest, but I almost felt as if this story was a little too fast paced. Just as soon as I read something, the author would change gears and take the story in a new direction or add another twist. I think that if the story had been paced out a little better, the book would have read a little more naturally. At it were, I felt as if I were reading a book that needed a large dose of Ritalin. Give the poor kid a chance to read and digest the information you give them before throwing them something else!
Similarly, I felt that the characters were a little flat and one-dimensional. That can be pretty common with children’s literature, seeing that the stories are substantially shorter than what I might be used to reading, but I just don’t think that’s a valid excuse. I still read children’s literature and there are several examples of kid’s book I’ve read recently that give characters depth with even just a few chapters. Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan, is a great example. Just because it’s a children’s book doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve a fleshed out story line and narrative.
I dunno. Like I said, this book had quite a bit of creative potential and the premise was cute, but I felt that it was poorly executed. I give it a very generous three stars and even for the Children’s lit genre, I think it’s for younger audiences, perhaps third or fourth grade.
I was provided an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.