ARC Review: Flunked by Jen Calonita

Yes! Getting on track with Netgalley reviews, I swear! Or maybe this is a fluke and doesn’t count ’cause technically it’d be only a couple of days before the actual book comes out. But WHATEVER.


by Jen Calonita
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, March 2015
Fractured fairy tale
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating/ 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley

flunkedWould 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 villian really change?

What I Loved

Fairy tale environment. This was certainly inspired by the fairy tales themselves, and there is a ton of crossover here, which made the world of Enchantasia a melting pot of fairy tale characters. This could be a typical overglut of fairy tale stuff, but in this case, it actually worked for me! What is interesting is that the kingdom is co-ruled by a party of famous princesses (Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Briar Rose–I might be forgetting someone), which makes this governance a…what, a council monarchy? Not sure. In any case, I loved that Calonita went ahead and created a world that continued the happily ever after, only…it’s not so happily ever after for the non-princesses.

Two thieves, a magician, a plagiarizer, and a pixie walk into a bar… Seriously, though, the heroes in this book is a motley crew of delinquent girls and boys, foremost among them is Gillian, a super-skilled thief who’s finally been caught. Already Gilly is a problem-child, and she’s sent to Fairy Tale Reform School as punishment for her third offense. There, she meets other delinquent children around her age. But instead of forming friendships and planning escapes, Gilly manages to land in FTRS during a time when misfortunes begin happening. Bad luck for Gilly, but hooray for the expectant reader!

Happily Ever After Scrolls. I adore the inclusion of Beatrice Beez’s journalistic scribbles. I thought it was a clever way of introducing certain characters–and later, events–without breaking from Gilly’s twelve-year-old POV. The HEA scrolls are technically for the reader’s benefit, since technically, Gilly is supposed to know what’s on the scrolls already, assuming she’d read up on her professors at some point during her stay at FTRS.

Villains-turned-boarding-school-professors. That’s a mouthful, and I’m not quite sure what possessed the Enchantasian princesses to approve a school run by known felons. Sure, they’re a testament to reformation, but a boarding school run entirely by some of the most notorious fairy tale villains out there kind hits red flag warnings everywhere. Still, I suppose that’s the point of the story, that perhaps there’s redemption for a villain after all. Flora is certainly a testament to that, and while she doesn’t have any magical powers to speak of, she’s totally badass. So’s Wolfington, but I’ve always had a partiality to a reformed Big Bad Wolf.

That cover. It certainly drew me in at first glance, and I’d totally buy the book just to have a hard copy of that cover.

Love/Hate Relationships

Short and sweet. The book was definitely a set-up to a series, and likely I’ll tune into the sequels when I get the chance. I did wish at times that Flunked was a bit longer in the character development and plot buildup departments. The classes, for instance. I felt that yes, while professors were introduced and certain classes ran on a regular basis, I didn’t know much about what was being studied and how these classes were supposed to “reform” delinquents. Granted, the timeframe of the story is supposed to be a few weeks, and a lot of events were happening in-between, but I felt that Gilly was just occasionally bumbling through the school without much reforming truly occurring.

Harlow’s penitence. I loved the sisterly bond between Harlow and Jocelyn, not gonna lie. But I felt this sentiment was rushed at the end and wasn’t entirely fleshed out, save for the occasional interactions Harlow had with her sister.

The campyness. Well, okay, for a middle grade fantasy, I thought it was cutesy that the world is called Enchantasia, and that the school is just plainly the Fairy Tale Reform School. And all the other fairy tale allusions, like Happily Ever After Scrolls and Rapunzel’s hair gel and the shoe house. Sometimes it did get too sickeningly campy, like I’d ingested a bag of candy type of campy. Still, it did keep the atmosphere light and humorous and full of color.

4 out of 5 cookies! Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy it, so there’s that.

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