With a gorgeously colorful cover and a rather enticing synopsis, my initial expectation was that Misfits by Jen Calonita had the makings for a fantastic novel. A middlegrade story about a Royal Academy and the fairy tale characters who attend it, the main character Devinarina definitely doesn’t feel as though she fits in with the royalty crowd. She would much prefer to be this world’s equivalent of a veterinarian.
The novel gets off to a wonderful start, introducing a rather unique and fun main character. But as the story progresses everything seems to fall apart alongside young Devin’s own personal feeling that the life she wants is crumbling as she heads off to the academy at which her name has been put down to attend since her birth. Naturally, Devin isn’t really fond of the stereotypical princess expectations. And while there are other characters who love it, there are also some who believe they don’t fit into the stereotype set forth by their royal expectations.
Unfortunately, I found the story somewhat disappointing. It’s as though the author tried to combine Harry Potter and Descendants complete with a Dumbledore-esque headmistress, a special school, a stupidly quirky villain, one dimensional characters, and a gross misunderstanding of basically every fairy tale in existence. I was regularly frustrated with the portrayals of characters like Snow White and Cinderella, especially in that the author regularly references Cinderella as though she was a young woman only interested in “catching” a prince, which by far is one of the most frustrating misconceptions that has ever existed within her story.
With the fact that you need a real suspension of belief when it comes to the idea of a Royal Academy for princes and princesses where all the royals of the fairy tales we know and love have gone and now their family attend, a book like this has to be exceedingly impressive to make up for that fault. And really, this is where Misfits fails. It has a plethora of cliches and tropes that the author occasionally tries to call out, but never actually manages to do so.
The villain is exceedingly obvious and slightly unbelievable if only because of how obvious she is. While the story remains quite fast paced, it never really manages to capture your attention and the characters all fit into these very flat archetypes and never quite develop from them at all. Many are unrealistic, acting in ways that don’t make complete sense. And ultimately, the story with its plot and characters as a whole feels underdeveloped and pedestrian.
As I realize this book is meant for a middlegrade audience, I can forgive some of these issues I had with the novel, but then again I’ve also read some incredibly impressive middlegrade novels. As such, I don’t think I’d really ever be recommending this book to young readers that I know. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good either.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.