Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked, by Jen Calonita (March 2015, Sourcebook Jabberwocky) $15.99, ISBN: 9781492601562
Recommended for ages 10-14
Gilly isn’t bad, really. She’s just a little light-fingered. But she’s doing it for her family – her father’s a shoemaker, and she’s got a LOT of brothers and sisters. (Sounding like a familiar tale yet?) Unfortunately for Gilly, she gets caught one too many times, and ends up at Fairy Tale Reform school, where Cinderella’s stepmother is the headmistress and faculty include the Evil Queen (Snow White’s stepmother) and the Big Bad Wolf. Gilly makes two friends, Kayla and Jax, who give her the inside scoop on FTRS; just as Gilly’s gut told her, there’s more going on than meets the eye. There’s one villain on the loose, and she’s bringing the fight to the school. Are the teachers really reformed, or is there someone on the inside helping the wrong side?
I’m a big fan of this flipped fairy tale trend happening in juvenile and YA fiction. It’s a great way of keeping a little spark of childhood wonder with us, and there really are some great stories to build on. Flunked – which reads, at points, like Scared Straight for fairy tales – is an interesting entry into this genre. We’ve got the big guns: Cinderella, Snow White, and their antagonists here, and we have one of the children of the old woman who lives in a shoe. We’re firmly rooted in the mythology, so we can slip right into the tale.
Gilly is a likable character; she’s the thief with a heart of gold, the maligned daughter who just wants to help her family. She’s the most developed character, but there are reasons for that which become clear as the book progresses. There were some good plot reveals and characters that you never quite trust – it’s a good suspense, where the reader is left to guess where loyalties truly lie. I’m interested in seeing where future stories take us, now that we’ve got an established storyline, characters, and plot.
Jen Calonita is a popular tween/YA author. Her Secrets of My Hollywood Life series is hugely popular at my library, and I’m super-excited, because I just found out that she will be speaking to my son’s middle school, Russell Sage JHS in Queens, on March 13th!
While you’re waiting for your copy of Flunked, check out the book’s website, and find your FTRS mentor. Professor Wolfington is mine, which makes me pretty happy. The book’s Facebook page offers fun shots of the “police blotter”- news clips that appear, along with newspaper articles about incidents taking place within the school and the village, in Flunked. This could lead to a fun program at a library or in class – create your own newspaper article with a modern-day spin on a fairy tale! There’s a great activity kit with some ideas that I may use in my own library for Summer Reading.