Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BIWNNR: A YA Fairy Tale

I'm a huge fan of fairy tales. I love them, even when Disney decides to destroy them with crazy departures from the original stories and meanings (this could possibly end up being a huge rant about the real role of fairy tales in European history, but I am going to try to control myself and not go there). In fact, I am attempting to write my own for an adult audience. And since I have taken on the task of writing in a genre in with which I am not particularly familiar, I have been attempting to read more fantasy.

Now, the book I just finished, Awake by Jessica Grey, was a modern Young Adult fairy tale, so it isn't really even that close to what I am writing, but I was floundering with what to read after finishing my last BIWNNR (Book[s] I Would Not Normally Read for anyone who missed my last BIWNNR post) and this looked like it had potential...

Potential is definitely what this book had, in my opinion. But, to be fair, I am an adult reading a novel geared towards girls in their mid-teens. If you look at the reviews of other readers, they liked it enough to give it 4.5 stars (no one gave it anything below 3 stars). I would probably put myself in that 3 star area, myself.

The book had an interesting enough premise. It follows a girl, Alex, who is in the transition between high school and going off to college as she starts a summer internship with a geology museum in Los Angeles. The story begins with her attending the intern orientation, even though she has interned with the museum the previous three summers, as well. When she arrives, it's to find--to her surprise--one of the most popular boys from her high school and MLB draftee, Luke, also interning with the gem and minerals museum. The two had been best friends as children and drifted apart in high school.

A few days later, Alex and Becca discover Luke "asleep" (and unable to wake up) on a massive jewel- and gold-encrusted bed that was newly arrived in the museum, and a beautiful blonde girl awake in his place. The girl, who is the princess of a fictitious Medieval country located to the southeast of France, explains that she is a demi-fairy and was put under a spell by her aunt. Asleep for almost a century, the girl was awakened by a kiss--however, because Luke, who kissed her, didn't love her, the curse was transferred to him.

The story continues to make twists on the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, and of course the three girls must figure out how to release Luke from the curse without transferring the curse, again. It managed to keep my interest simply because I wanted to see where the author was going. The story was interesting enough, but in the end, it still fell flat for me--like I said, based on the other reviews, apparently teen aged girls loved it.

So, why was this not a five-star book?

A few things:
  • The author relied heavily on Disney's re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty for her story. There was some mention that there was a book in which the story could be found, but the only element of it divulged to readers was something along the lines of: "well, it could be worse. In some fairy tales, the princess wakes up to find herself pregnant." Otherwise, only other departure was the prick of a rose thorn, not a spinning wheel.
  • The characters spent a lot of time arguing with one another rather than doing something. There was one conversation that took almost three pages and be summed up with: "I'm going." "No, you're not." "Yes, I am." "No, you're not." "Yes, I am." "No, you're not. "Yes, I am." Etc. Etc. It was as though they had to repeat the same thing twenty times before they "got it." In other words, the characters were thick.
  • The characters were thick (ha), especially the main character. It didn't matter what kind of "proof" they had, they refused to believe it.
  • The pace was rather slow.
  • Overall, I really think the story could have used a few workshops to work on a few of those things. It just felt... un-tried.
It was definitely a different take on the Sleeping Beauty story, especially while adding a modern twist. I liked that the female characters were strong, they were smart, and they were relatively resourceful. It was refreshing to see female characters who were more interested in their education, research, and intelligence than how to be popular, get a boyfriend, fashion, or how to deal with their vampire/werewolf/ghost/shape-shifter boyfriend. I really did want to see what was going to end up happening, which is why I kept  reading. I would definitely recommend this story to a teenage girl over some of the other popular YA fantasy fare. And I would recommend an adult pick it up free/at a library if she needed something light and slightly magical to get lost in for awhile.


  1. This sounds a lot like my opinion of Beastly. Ugh. Don't bother reading that one, if you haven't already.

    Yay for BIWNNR!

    1. Is that the one that movie was based on? Cause we saw the movie and thought it was cute enough. But no, never read it.

    2. Yeah they made a movie of it recently. I don't know how close of an adaptation it was though. Presumably the movie was better because the book had creepy vibes.

    3. How was it creepy??? I wants to know!

    4. He had the girl kidnapped and they lived in his house for like a year or whatever, with no contact with the rest of the world at all. Then he takes her to his country home or whatever and decides to do the whole "if you love it, let it go" thing, and I dunno it was just very male-dominant and female-unimportant and weird in an unrealistic way. She disappeared off the face of the earth and literally nobody noticed? What.

    5. He kidnapped her?! What. the. heck?!