Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) Review
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Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Runtime: 5 hours, 17 minutes
Read by Kristin Condon

Once upon a time, fairy tales were fanciful stories for little girls, with perfect princesses saved by true love’s kiss. But times have changed—and fairy tales have, too. And in the audio edition of Flunked, the first installment in the Fairy Tale Reform School series by author Jen Calonita, the villains often steal the show.

The story introduces Gillian Cobbler, the daughter of a shoemaker who lost most of his business when Princess Ella handed over the production of glass slippers to her fairy godmother. Since then, Gilly has stolen from royals to help provide for her family—until she’s caught and forced to attend Fairy Tale Reform School, a boarding school run by reformed fairy tale villains.

At first, the school doesn’t seem that bad. Gilly makes some new friends, and she no longer has to share a run-down boot with her parents and five siblings. But it soon becomes clear that something evil is building there.

Flunked is a little bit like Descendants and a little bit like Harry Potter, with reformed villains and lovable troublemakers living and studying together at a magical school that feels an awful lot like Hogwarts (complete with magical moving hallways). It certainly isn’t unique—it’s more a random collection of reworked stories and repurposed characters. But it’s still an entertaining adaptation. And the variety of magical characters at FTRS—plus beloved princesses and notorious villains—makes it a fun-filled fantasy.

Gilly, meanwhile, is a likable main character. Clever and resourceful—yet with a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to royals—she’s someone that readers can understand and cheer for. Like most of her fellow students, she doesn’t seem to be especially reform school-worthy—and, together with her little group of misfits and mischief makers, she ends up showing that even troublemaking kids can be heroic.

Granted, not everything here works well. The fairy tales sometimes feel a little bit jumbled, and the characters and their storylines seem a little haphazard. It also seems strange that kids are sent to the school as punishment, though most find that they have it better at reform school than they did back home. But despite its inconsistencies and nagging issues, the fractured fairy tales make it a fun—if brainless—adventure.

If your young readers like their fairy tales with a little bit of an edge, they’ll enjoy Flunked. The story is far from fresh and flawless, but it’s an entertaining mix of magical action and familiar characters.

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