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“True power is learning how to put others first and not judge a book by its cover, so to speak,” Flora. –Flunked
Fairy Tale Reform School #1
by Jen Calonita
For the royals, Enchantasia is a grand place to live. But for Gilly’s family, life is difficult. Gilly and her five little brothers and sisters live in a run-down boot. Gilly doesn’t want her family to go hungry, so she gets creative. Gilly doesn’t think it’s wicked to steal from the royals. She just doesn’t want her family to suffer.
When Gilly gets caught stealing for the third time, she’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School—where all of the teachers are former villains. The Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother have all changed. When Gilly meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there is more to this school than its heroic mission. When strange events begin to happen, Gilly wonders if the bad guys have truly turned good.
Told from Gilly’s point of view, Flunked takes a fun, fresh look at fairytale villains. Fans of fairy tales will enjoy seeing the evil villains in a new light. Although the story had several interesting characters, Gilly is the only character that is well-developed. Gilly’s roommate, Kayla, plays an important role in the story; however, she quickly disappears and only makes a brief appearance at the end. The princesses and the villains also only appear for a brief time, which may disappoint some readers.
Flunked breaks up the chapters and recaps some events by using Happily Ever After Scrolls—tabloid-like news articles. The interesting setting and fast-paced plot will keep readers entertained. The ending of the story has several twists, but the climactic end scene is over too quickly. Although middle school readers may wish for more depth of character, younger readers will enjoy the fun trip into Enchantasia. All readers will benefit from the theme—everyone, no matter how villainous, can change their evil ways and find a new, better path.
- Gargoyles attack Gilly and Jax. The gargoyles “are wrinkly and dark grey with red eyes and long wings that fold under themselves, but the long, sharp claws on their hands and feet frighten me the most. One lets out a long wail when he sees us and Jax shoves me forward again, shaking me from my trance…” A Gargoyle grabs Jax, and his “face twists in pain and he begins sliding backward into the tunnel… I drop the grate and grab Jax’s hands, pulling as hard as I can and getting nowhere. It’s like we’re locked in a tug-of-war and Jax is the rope.” Jax is able to get free. Kayla uses a mirror that shoots bolts. A bolt hits the gargoyles and the kids are able to escape. The scene is described over four pages.
- A student makes a loud noise that causes Madame Cleo, a Sea Siren, to “scream so loudly that bubbles take over the tank and the floor actually begins to quake… And that’s when the tank begins to crack.” Jax uses his watch to break the lock. As they are leaving, the student “continues to chant, a smug smile on her face. When I look back Madame Cleo has passed out and is just floating in the middle of the tank.” Gilly jumps on the girl in order to get her to stop chanting. No one is injured.
- One of the students lists some of the black magic that has been causing problems. “The crack in the tank, the swarm of pernicious peony ants that were accidently released in the botany lab, the poisoned fruit found in the cafeteria at the breakfast buffet.”
- During a class, the students hear “the sound of a crash from above that sends glass raining down on the room.” Then gargoyles appear and a “thick, purple fog fills the room.”
- As the students try to escape the gargoyles, “a gargoyle grabs hold of one of the Ladies-in-Waiting and takes off again. She screams and kicks, but it’s no use. She’s a goner…” The students try to hide, but Jocelyn gets picked up by a gargoyle. “I watch as she swings wildly with her sword and nicks one of the gargoyle’s legs. The gargoyle drops Jocelyn like a hot potato. She falls to the ground and bumps her head as the fog evaporates. We stare at her as she lies there motionless.”
- During the gargoyle attack, teachers and students are sucked into a bubble. Harlow, a teacher, “throws her sword through the air. Maxine screams as the sword hits the bubble and bounces off of it. The gargoyles jump up and down excitedly as Harlow picks up a few of the discarded swords on the ground and aims another one at the bubble… This sword pierces the bubble and hits Princess Snow in the arm… Harlow throws another sword, and it pierces the bottom of the bubble, hitting a student in the shoe.” Gilly runs towards Harlow and slides as “hard as I can into Harlow, knocking her straight off her feet. I cover my head as swords rain down on me, and then the world goes black.” The scene is described over seven pages.
- Later Gilly finds out that “Professor Harlow lost her pinkie in the mess and had to charm it back on.”
- The villain shoots purple bolts from her hands and locks a student, Jocelyn, in a cell. When Jocelyn starts a chant, the villain “notices and flings bolts toward the bars, Jocelyn goes flying back…”
- In order to break the students out of a cell, “Professor Wolfington transforms… Wolfington’s clothes begin to tear, his hair begins to grow, and he falls to all fours before letting out a wolf howl…” He is able to break the cell bars and free the students.
- Gilly points a magic mirror at the villain. When two mirrors are pointed at each other, “the connection causes an explosion that sends us both flying backwards. The ground shakes, and large chunks of the ceiling begin to cave in…” The villain runs away.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Someone says, “God, no!”
- “Oh God” and “Oh My God” are both used once.
- Heck is used twice.
- “What the—” is used once.
- Mira lives in a mirror, but can “come and go between mirrors as I please.”
- Some of the characters can perform magic and cast spells. Kayla’s mother was upset when she “caught me flying over Royal Manor. I was already grounded for casting a spell on my sister that made her nose as big as her face.”
- One of the teachers “snaps her fingers” and makes Gilly’s boots disappear. In the boot’s place are the school shoes.
- Gilly is given a quill. “I dip the quill in the ink, and nothing happens. Then I try putting the quill to paper. That’s when things get weird. I know what I want to write, but instead, different words come out.” Using the magic quill allowed Gilly’s roommate to secretly leave Gilly a note.
- The school’s hallways are always shifting and making new ones.
- A student casts a spell “on Maxine that made her right ear as big as her head.”
- While dancing, a girl gets upset, and “her lips begin to move, and a glow emits from her eyes… Gayle lets out an ear-piercing scream, and her troll partner flies backward, hitting one of the torches on the wall, which falls and causes a small fire that short-circuits the music.”
- Kayla was sent to reform school after “[she]’d been busted for flying without a license, illegal use of magic, and casting love spells on people who hate each other.”
- The villain is revealed when “a purple cloud of smoke surrounds her, and within seconds, Gottie’s ragged clothes, wart-covered face, and white frizzy hair have disappeared.” The villain’s appearance drastically changes.
- Rumpelstiltskin made Kayla’s family forget her and “turned them all into hollow trees.”