Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review - "Whatever After - Fairest of All"

I remember having a collection of fractured fairy tales when I was younger, and reveling in the familiar tales gone wrong. This interest has continued into my adult years as I devour retellings of my favorite stories like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. But fairy tales have always been close to my heart, (you can only imagine how fond I am of TV’s“Once Upon a Time”) so when a popular author like Sarah Mlynowski comes out with a new series of fairy tale books, called Whatever After, you can bet I wanted to get my hands on them. Starting off the series is Fairest of All, a take on the Snow White tale (not to be confused with Serena Valentino’s Fairest of All, which is the Wicked Queen’s side of the story), which introduces us to our main characters and gives us our first glimpse of the magic involved in these story-busted tales.

If you’ve ever moved from one place to another, you know how Abby feels. Everything seems upside down. The kids play the wrong kind of tag, they don’t know the proper way to make peanut butter and banana sandwiches and they call Coke, Pepsi, etc. “soda”. Soda, I tell you! All this change makes Abby long for something familiar and normal. Unfortunately for her, “normal” isn’t in the cards. While doing some late night exploring, Abby’s younger brother Jonah discovers something mysterious about the creepy mirror in the basement, and before you can say “Mirror, mirror on the wall”, both Abby and Jonah (along with some furniture and a fair amount of law books) are sucked into the mirror and taken far, far away. A little bit of exploring later and the kids find themselves witness to a familiar scene: a haggard old woman attempting to give an apple to a beautiful girl. Just in time, Abby realizes what’s going on and stops Snow White from eating the poisoned apple, thus saving her life, and the day. But Abby and Jonah soon realize that saving the day has messed with Snow’s story, and now she might never get her prince and her happy ending. Now Abby, Jonah, Snow and seven dwarves (some of them women!) are on a mission to fix Snow’s story and find the Queen’s Magic Mirror to send the siblings back home.

There are so many little things about this book that I enjoyed, I’ll start there. First of all, I loved the personalities and the diversity of the seven dwarves. Making some of them female is genius; I’ve never come across that idea before. In fact, I enjoyed all the characters at play here. Abby, our heroine, is ultimately smart, creative and relatable. Jonah has heart (and stomach), bravery and is very loyal. And while Snow White starts out na├»ve and a little simple, she quickly grows into someone quite clever, though she will probably never be a good cook.

Mlynowski has a really good handle on her story, as well. She wastes no time in setting the scene. In two short chapters we are introduced to Abby and her new girl worries, and her brother and his mysterious discovery. From chapter three onward, we are off! The action moves at a very quick pace (at only 169 pages, it’s an easy one-sitter for an adult reader), but leaves nothing out. All the seeds are planted for an interesting series, and I can’t wait to see what stories Mlynowski muddles with next.

Whatever After: Fairest of all by Sarah Mlynowski
2012, Scholastic
Library copy

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