This book was a great YA read for Carl’s R.I.P VI challenge, and I’m so glad to be using the challenge to mix with my goal of reading more YA books! Checks the Goodreads summary, y’all:
Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.
Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.
Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
OH MY GOODNESS. Okay, so, to begin with I’ve never read a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel (also, side note, I did think that Ansel, as a name, was a bit too close/too much of a weird-name-stretch to sit well with me, but I guess a name like Hansel is hard to find an equivalent of) so this one was especially interesting. I also loved the frequent mentions and descriptions of the chocolate treats at Sophia’s chocolatier. The book, while not the most beautiful I’ve ever read, certainly did a wonderful job of creating the small southern town, full of reputations and secrets, where the book takes place. So lets move on to a discussion of…
THE GOOD: Pearce does a wicked job of adapting fairy tales. Like, probably one of the best jobs of any retellings I’ve read in a good long while (she also has a retelling called Sisters Red which is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood). The world that she creates is one in which werewolves and witches live (more on this in the BAD column) but is primarily a human world, full of people who hurt and make bad decisions and don’t listen to the people that care about them. It’s nice to read such a well-created world. Also, Gretchen is one bad ass chick! She learns to shoot multiple different guns, and ends up doing quite a bit of sharp-shooting, even saving Samuel a time or two, in a great damsel-in-distress reversal. Speaking of Samuel, it was such a joy to watch his hurt and his layers peel back, and I think it’s so rare to find a YA boy who can admit to having been in love (not the same as being in love, which they seem more than willing to own up to) and dealing with the hurt of that.
I also think that the ending was appropriate and fitting, if not the most YA friendly. I mean, **SPOILERS** after we find out that Sophia knows that the ‘witch’ is actually a group of werewolves, and that she’s been funneling the missing girls to their deaths at the hand of the Fenris, it’s hard to feel sympathy for her – even is her sister is being held hostage under threat of death. In the end, the only way to stop the pain for all of them – including Gretchen and Sophia, is to kill Sophia. It’s not your typical happy YA ending, but one that was well written and true to the reality of the story. But poor Ansel. 😦 **END SPOILERS** Which brings us to…
THE BAD: MORE WEREWOLVES. Seriously. Also, this is not a spoiler, as you find out early on that the ‘witch’ Gretchen thinks took her sister is actually one of a group of werewolves. I’m just SO DAMN TIRED of 1.) werewolves and 2.) vampires in paranormal lit, especially YA paranormal lit. This was primarily my huge problem with the story as a whole – it would have been cooler if the witch had been an actual witch.
My other problem with the novel was the fact that the ocean was brought in to it. I mean, I get that the southern coast does have an ocean attached to it, but thinking of werewolves, which are land animals the last time I checked, having an underground ocean kingdom where they keep their victims…it’s too weird. It didn’t really seem to go anywhere, to me, and I wish it had been left out completely.
Again, this was an absolutely wonderful little joy of a book, and just look at that cover! $100 bonus bucks if you can spot the uber-creepy face in the trees! Hope you all are wrapping up your October reading on a good note, and looking forward to All Hallow’s Eve! Happy reading!