Friday, January 25, 2013

What we're reading: Fairy Tale legacies

There's been a big trend in recent years to rediscover old fairy tales as the basis for new YA fiction. Two of my favorites are Deerskin (a tale with a rather horrifying premise, definitely for older teens), by Robin McKinley, and Cinder (a futuristic sci-fi android version of Cinderella), by Marissa Meyer, and I also liked Sisters Red (Little Red Riding Hood all grown up and hunting werewolves) by Jackson Pearce. We in fact have a book list attached to our catalog (as well as in print in the libraries) called "Fairy Tales Retold," listing similar titles.

This trend has also caught the attention of moviemakers, so we've seen Beastly (Beauty and the Beast, based on Alex Flinn's book), Snow White and the Huntsman, Red Riding Hood, and (coming soon) Hansel and Gretel gain new life on the screen as well as between the pages of books. And the phenomenon has even moved onto our television screens in such shows as "Beauty and the Beast" (again) and "Once Upon A Time."

One of the latest entries into this subgenre of teen fiction is Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross, and it has similarities with the last-mentioned TV show, in that it is not based on one fairy tale but rather incorporates characters from many, all gathered in one special location. Mirabelle, just about to turn 16, has finally decided, after living an exemplary life as the ward of her two godmothers, to disobey their orders and revisit Beau Rivage, the town where she was born. She wants to go there as a sort of pilgrimage, because her parents died there in a fire when she was an infant; she wants to see where they are buried, as well as get a perspective on her past. Since she knows the godmothers will throw a hissy fit and forbid her from going, she has actually created a false trail for them to follow (an email correspondence with a fake boyfriend), which means no one knows where she's gone.

Upon her arrival, she realizes fairly quickly that Beau Rivage contains a strange cast of characters who seem eerily familiar: a pale girl with red lips, black hair, and an apple fixation; an obnoxious party boy who's beastly to everyone he meets; and an overly friendly guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. She finds out that curses are real, and that fairy tale characters weren't just people in the wrong place at the wrong time, but avatars pre-destined to play out their fate. Mira herself has a destiny to embrace or resist, but she is drawn into the lives of two brothers who aren't part of "her" story and discovers that love has thorns.

I liked this book; I found Mira's quandaries a little over-angst-y and repetitive, and I saw the plotlines coming far in advance of their appearance, but that may be because I am more familiar with fairy tales than most. Anyway, in general it's a fun and interesting read, and I liked the avatar idea. If you don't know what I mean by that, here's a definition: An avatar is "an incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea." What it means in this case is that people are born into their roles (doomed to sleep for 100 years, destined to save the princess with a kiss, etc.) and (unless they can find a creative way to get around it) are stuck fulfilling them no matter what. Watching Mira realize that and then try to figure a way out of it was engaging.

I'd give it a 3.5, and I approve of the cover--it goes well with the story.

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