Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Retelling, Young Adult
Published by Penguin, Razorbill on August 21, 2012
When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream.
But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.
Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch.
What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!
I picked this book up because I wanted a cute, refreshing retelling. I went into it knowing it would be for younger audiences, however I thought that all ages could read it. My mind immediately compared it to the Percy Jackson series that can be enjoyed by all ages. And while I have to admit that THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY was slightly too young for me. For example, I loved that there were pictures in this book. They were adorable! But the rational part of my brain was telling me that there were pictures in this book and that may be the cause of why I was rolling my eyes every now and then. This book is truly meant for younger audiences. It’s a good read to share between mother and daughter.
As far as the plot goes, it was definitely cute. I think it could be more appreciated by younger audiences, but I recognize the potential. Our main character is a smart girl, but she wouldn’t have come to half of the conclusions she eventually came to if not for Andrew, the overweight classmate that most people made fun of. She harbors a huge amount of guilt because her mother passed away from cancer earlier and she felt she helped accelerate the process of her death. Why she believes this is something that you’ll have to discover for yourself, but there is a surprising amount of depth to this tale. It’s about forgiving oneself and realizing that because you do something wrong, you’re not an evil person.
All plot issues aside, the retelling nerd inside me is extremely satisfied. This is a really unique twist on the HANSEL AND GRETEL fairytale. Essentially, these witches opened up a school where there are no rules and snacking on candy is encouraged. The bowls fill themselves and lunch is an infinite helping of deliciousness. There’s several snack times a day and if you’re not eating, the teachers get mad. See, they’ve got to fatten up the kids one way or another. This is their house of candy that attracts the children where they can slowly fatten up to prepare for their magnificent feast. I absolutely adore this entire idea. And I can’t complain about execution because I know that, in the end, the age level chosen for this novel was what the novel demanded.
I can’t complain about the novel because I went in thinking that, as a middle grade lover, it would be a level I could read. I didn’t realize it was for younger middle grade readers, but I still found the overall tale to be adorable. Some characters are extremely frustrating, like the evil step-mother that didn’t have to be evil but was made evil for the purpose of the retelling. Even our main character is slow to catch onto things at time. But, in the end, this novel was satisfactory. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. It is simply okay.