Review: Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School (Calonita)

AUTHOR: Jen Calonita
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
ISBN: 9781492601562
PAGES: 256
SOURCE: SLJ review via NetGalley
GENRE: retellings, fairy tales
SETTING: Enchantasia, a land where fairy tales are true
GIVE IT TO: upper-ES, MS

SUMMARY: Twelve-year old Gilly is mostly happy with her life living in the shoe with her parents and 5 brothers and sisters. Times are hard though, especially since Cinderella’s fairy godmother stole Gilly’s father’s design for the glass slipper. In order to help feed her large family, Gilly has become quite good at stealing food and other items from wealthier merchants in Enchantasia. But when Gilly is caught for the third time, she is sent off to Fairy Tale Reform School, a juvenile detention facility run by Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother and other famous fairy tale antagonists.

REVIEW: If you loved Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin or Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kindgom, you will love Flunked. This cute story follows Gilly, one of the children from the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” nursery rhyme. Caught stealing food and trinkets for her poor family, Gilly is sent to Fairy Tale Reform School, where she encounters other well-known fairy tale characters like Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty (all ruling princesses now), a tattle-tale magic mirror, gargoyles, mermaids, trolls, fairies, and loads of other fairy tale creatures.

Teachers at the school include Professor Wolfington (Red’s Big Bad Wolf), Snow White’s Evil Queen, and The Little Mermaid’s Sea Witch. After she has a near-death experience and witnesses some suspicious behavior from the school’s faculty, Gilly and her new friends Jax, Kayla, and Maxine try to find out if the Evil Queen and the Reform School faculty are really as reformed as they claim to be.

Intermixed with all this are the magic scrolls, a sort-of fairy tale newspaper with stories of the goings-on in Enchantasia. These scrolls help break up the text and may help attract reluctant readers.

It’s all cute and fun, but the audience here is limited to tweens and younger teens. Older readers may find the story too predictable, and Gilly’s constant need to sacrifice herself and find out what’s going on quickly becomes exhausting. There is a (very) light romance with a character who seems way too perfect to be true, but none of those things will likely bother younger readers looking for some action-packed fairy tale adventures.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Best for tween readers and fans of similar fairy tale retellings.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be easy to book talk with my 6th and 7th graders.

READALIKES: Once Upon A Marigold (Ferris); Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Shurtliff); The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Healy)


  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5–several others like it; predictable
  • Characters: 4/5–love all the fairy tale antagonists trying to behave themselves!
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 2/5–best for tweens
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5–I skimmed some; got a bit bored with the story


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: mild; gargoyles attack, magical attacks
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
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