You know, I don’t think enough people really gave “Flunked” a chance, or they forget that MG books are meant for, you know, middle graders so things being “obvious” to an adult are, well, a no brainer. This book was meant for younger children, and as such, it’s actually a really cute, fun, and charming read! “Flunked” follows Gillian Cobbler, you know, the family that lives in a shoe that has so many children they don’t know what to do? Yeah, that family. Gillian’s family is struggling, so more often than not her younger siblings are going hungry. As the oldest, Gilly takes up thieving to help feed her family. I really liked that distinction, because yes, stealing is wrong, but her intentions are never evil. Still, it’s no surprise that when she gets caught for the 3rd time, she’s sent to the Fairy Tale Reform School where ex-villains—such as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Snow White’s wicked queen, and Red Riding Hood’s big bad wolf—have all changed their ways and now strive to keep troubled youth from bringing more evil into Enchantasia. Or have they? As soon as Gilly arrives, she’s suspicious of all her teachers, something feels off, and Gilly is determined to find out what, and get out of Reform School and back to feeding her family as soon as possible.
I loved that this book not only had a strong female lead with a cast of well-rounded characters, but also the sheer fun the author clearly had in writing this book. It’s silly, but in a good way where I genuinely believe younger readers will be laughing out loud at the narrator’s sass, as well as some of the situations the kids find themselves in—I know it made me smile! The book has plenty of action that makes Gilly a believable “hero” while also making her feelings on the Royals feel genuine, rather than the overly used “I hate them because they have money” trope that I feel is an oversimplification that does nothing to challenge young readers. Gilly’s arc throughout the book is handled very well, and it’s clear to see her growth and changing view points on assuming the worst of people and thinking selfishly. She grows in a way that provides a good example for kids, all while providing a fun and easy to understand ride for the reader, especially as the author uses “enchanted scrolls”—think blog posts—to introduce characters without interrupting the flow of the story.
Now, are things rather predictable? Sure. But there were some twists that I didn’t expect and some depth added to some of the bullies towards the end that I really appreciated. Is there a lot of dialogue vs. exposition? Sure. Again, this is meant for a younger reader, so I feel this is rather appropriate for the reading level kids should have when picking this up. That being said, the world is wonderful! With all the fairy tales living in a world that is both familiar, but still unique and vibrant enough for me to never be bored by the story's location or the characters.
I honestly had a lot of fun reading this book, something I didn’t expect to be all that blown away by really surprised me. This is easily one of my favorite MG novels so far, and will definitely be something I give to my niece AND nephew to read. There’s nothing overly scary about the tale, and the action of it all is more fun than tense, which is something I think kids need more of in today’s world. If you want to inspire a love of reading in a young reader, I think “Flunked” is a great book to introduce them to, which is why I’m giving it 5 stars!
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!