Flunked, by Jen Calonita, was published in 2015 by Sourcebooks.
Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself). Until she gets caught. Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School—where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learn there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder just how good these bad guys are.
I think I would have enjoyed Flunked better if Gilly was not my least favorite protagonist-type. I think Calonita was trying to go for headstrong or spirited, but all I got was bratty, bratty, bratty. Gilly is selfish and, yes, bratty and is all together an annoying protagonist to read. She gets slightly better at the end, but it’s almost too sudden—she suddenly starts spouting things to her parents and teachers that doesn’t follow smoothly from her development, in my opinion.
The writing and plot were okay, but nothing special. The plot was a little obvious, and what was supposed to be the Big Reveal was spoiled, in my opinion, by the way it was handled—it was almost anticlimactic, in a way, rather than surprising. That might have been a writing issue, but I don’t know. It just didn’t really affect me, one way or the other. Nothing in the book did.
I think the idea is good, but perhaps I was spoiled by having read School for Good and Evil before this book, because despite its flaws, School handles the subject of good/bad much better than Flunked does, with less brattiness. Also, Flunked’s depiction (and character complaints) of the royals is incredibly over-the-top, and at one point (probably unintentionally) insults everyone with the name Jackson.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
Pete snorts. “She’ll regret the day she skips a class at FTRS. I’ll tell you that.” Pete gruffly pushes me toward the door, sidestepping the coatrack.
“I’m sorry, guys,” I say to my sniveling siblings. I won’t look at my parents. I try to sound upbeat. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”
Pete snorts. “Doubt that.” He grabs the back of my shirt and I elbow him in the ribs. “Ow!”
“Gilly!” Father scolds.
“Like I said, you won’t be leaving FTRS for a while,” Pete seethes. “Which is great news for me, bad for you. You, my little thief, are off to Fairy Tale Reform School.”
Most of my problems with Flunked likely stem from my strong dislike of the protagonist, who is exactly the sort of bratty, “I know better than the adults in my life,” whippersnapper of a pre-teen who makes me grind my teeth. As far as plot goes, nothing was new or surprising—in fact, it felt pretty anticlimactic for the most part.
You can buy this here: Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School)