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The School for Good and Evil
Soman Chainani
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray This book tells the tale of Gemma Doyle, a young British girl who grew up in India during the Victorian era. After her mother's mysterious death, Gemma is sent to a boarding school for girls in England. There she makes friends and enemies and begins to unlock a secret about her mother, herself, and an enegamatic group called The Order.

This was a real treat. I saw it in the book stores but avoided it because of the cover art, mistaking it for the same craptalcular YA rubbish that fills the shelves these days. However, while attending a conference, it was reccomended to me and at the same conference I got to hear the author, Libba Bray, speak. I was intrigued and picked up the book. I'm so glad I did.

What I love the most about this story is how complex the characters are. Bray does an excellent job making her characters very three dimensional. We get to see a picture of the way teenage girls really interact with each other, the real confusing dynamics of their relationships with one another - petty and cruel one minute and supportive and caring the next. She really is able to show their flaws and superficiality while also showing these girls' warmth, hopes and fears. The characters are very fragile, very vunerable and very real.
The story itself is very interesting and the plot keeps you wanting to find out more. I am very excited about starting the next book.

My only minor complaint is that I do wish I could have seen a bit more tenderness and goodness from Pippa and Felicity. Especially Pippa. The reason is because when she dies at the end, Gemma refelcts on a number of positive traits she saw in Pippa. However, I think we needed to see that more in the book to make her reflection stronger. She calls Pippa "brave and determined and generous". I am not sure if I would call Pippa brave. She is a constant follower and fusses about everything. Was she brave because she decided to die over having to submit to her parents will? I'm not sure if that is exactly brave. Brave would have been going back and confronting her parents. Determined, sure. But we certainly do not see much of a generous side of her. If this is the portrait of her we are suppose to walk away with then I think we needed to see a more tenderess to her.
I certainly think Pippa did have some strenghts and positive attributes, but I am not sure if those presented were an accurate description.