The School for Good and Evil is the first book in the eponymously-titled series and the debut novel of the author, Soman Chainani.
Much of the plot takes place at The School for Good and Evil and in the village of Gavaldon. Initially, the protagonists are best friends Agatha and Sophie. The two are very different, but share a strong bond over feeling different from others. Agatha is awkward and morbid while Sophie is beautiful but vain. Sophie hopes to get selected to attend the School for Good, one of two legendary academies that prepare children to become fairy tale characters, the other being the School for Evil. Every four years, two children are kidnapped from the village to be enrolled in either school. The children are never returned, but appear in storybooks that come yearly. The books appear mysteriously at a local bookshop.
When the two girls find themselves whisked away by the mysterious Headmaster of the schools of Good and Evil, known the School Master, Sophie is ecstatic until she realizes that she has been placed in the School for Evil (to become a Never) and Agatha is in the School for Good (to become an Ever). She tries to switch places with Agatha many times to of no avail. Agatha soon finds she can grant wishes for people and nearly turns a gargoyle into a little boy, but it is killed. All she wants, however, is to return home with her friend. Agatha learns that the School Master and his brother were at war and that one of them died in the process, and the dying brother enchanted the Storian, a magical pen, to keep the Woods in balance.
The girls break into the mysterious School Master's tower and see the Storian begin to write their story. The School Master gives them a riddle they are unable to solve for some time. Agatha realizes "The thing Nevers can never have and Evers can't do without" is love.
Knowing that a kiss from true love will end a story, Agatha helps Sophie charm Tedros, the son of King Arthur, into asking her to the Ever Ball by disguising herself as a cockroach and helping Sophie through her classes so she ranks #1. This eventually backfires when Tedros discovers what is going on at the Trial by Tale. Agatha protects Tedros when he is to die, calling out Sophie's name. Sophie plummets into irrational rage and Nemesis Dreams. Sophie then uses her ability for evil to take revenge on Tedros and eventually Agatha, who is revealed to be Sophie's Nemesis that she must destroy. She tries to enlist the Never students in her task, but they are initially reluctant to take part in all of Sophie's revenge. In the evil moat The School Master hurls the Storian, meaning to kill Agatha, but Sophie is speared instead and dies from her wounds. Agatha kisses Sophie, bringing her back to life. Agatha chooses her ending with her best friend/nemesis instead of her soon discovered prince, Tedros, and she and Sophie both return to their village.
When the story, The Tale of Sophie and Agatha is published to the village, the last page ends with a picture of a prince who looks a lot like Tedros walking away, his back facing the page, titled 'They didn't need princes in their fairytale at all.'
Critical reception for the first book in the series has been positive, and the book has received praise from The Guardian and the Miami Herald.
Waterstone's Children's Book Prize for Best Fiction for 5-12 (2014, nominee for The School for Good and Evil)