Title: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls Author: Katie Cross Genre: YA, paranormal fantasy (self)Published: March 21st, 2014 Length: 308 pages
I can’t remember how I found out about MMSG, but I’m glad I did. This story follows Bianca, a sixteen-year-old who’s inherited a curse placed by the diabolical Miss Mabel. Since someone thought it would be a good idea to give Miss Mabel a school of girls to watch over, Bianca has to go to that school and confront Miss Mabel in order to have the curse removed and save her life as well as the lives of her mother and grandmother.
What I liked/will be drawing inspiration from:
As I read, I was actively aware of how solidly this story was paced. It felt like a well-oiled machine. Part of that probably stemmed from Bianca having a plan (sort of) for getting her curse removed, so the beginning of this story in large part followed that plan. There aren’t a lot of “extra” scenes. There are points where Bianca spends time with her school friends but many/most of those conversations still contribute to Bianca’s quest for curse-freedom. The friendship scenes were also quick and nicely spaced, so they gave me some breather room between the more dramatic scenes.
With the story set at a school for magic, it would be temping to look for comparisons to Harry Potter. As I was reading, I actually kept thinking about the movies The Worst Witch and The Witches ( I have not read either of those books, so I can’t say how similar they are to MMSG), which worked out in the book’s favor because I loved both movies as a kid.
Side note: If you want to see some fabulous ’90’s CGI, the full movie of The Worst Witch is on Youtube.
A final thing I loved was all the Girl Power™. No silly, forced love-triangles in this book. In fact, there are barely any guys period. It’s all about the ladies solving their problems (or making them worse) for themselves. While Bianca’s a bit of a poor planner, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her two main friends were also interesting characters who I hope continue to develop in the future books. They’ve got a fiestiness I like. And of course, there’s Miss Mabel, so strong and yet so evil.
I’m a little conflicted about the Bianca-Miss Mabel dynamic. It’s established from page one that Miss Mabel is a terrible person who shouldn’t be trusted. However, there are many points where she ends up helping Bianca become stronger. So I kept thinking, “Wait… is she evil? Is she training Bianca to become her evil sidekick? Is she not evil at all and Bianca’s just an unreliable narrator? What does evil mean anyway?” Pretty sure I over-thought it, but I’m curious to see how this dynamic develops over the other books as well.
What I might’ve written differently:
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I didn’t like in this book. The one thing I might have liked to see more of was world-building. The story is set in a land called Antebellum that is organized into five networks (countries, I suppose). The geography and history that’s necessary to understand the plot is covered, so I didn’t feel like anything was left out. But the story was very focused on the school that not much was shown of the rest of Antebellum or how things work there. One line in particular stood out to me, about how non-magical mortals had moved out of Antebellum to get away from the witches. That left about a million questions in my mind: Where did they go? Where are they now? Why flee the witches, were they slaves or something? What’s outside of Antebellum (I pictured it as an island continent)? Etc. I assume there will be more world-building in the future books, and if all of my world questions are answered then I’ll be satisfied.
All in all, I give Miss Mabel’s School for Girls 4 out of 5 stars.