Reading Level: Young Adult
Length: 464 pages
Release Date: February 9, 2010)
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3/5 stars
I was really excited to read this book because I love fairy tale retellings. This is a fairy tale retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. I have heard mixed things about this novel and after reading it I can understand why. Some parts are beautifully written and some are incredibly boring.
Liga has had a horrible childhood and preteen existence. At fifteen she has a small child (who is her father’s) and is pregnant with another (from rape by town boys) when a magical being grants her life in her personal heaven. In this peaceful place, that is Liga’s ideal world, she raises her two daughters Branza (Snow White) and Urdda (Rose Red). Urdda is especially eager to seek out adventure and when a very manlike bear shows up, Urdda decides there must be a way out of this world. As the two worlds start to collide things begin to unravel.
Okay let’s get the controversial issues out of the way. Yes there is a lot of uncomfortable material in this book. Liga is raped by her father many, many times and abused by him after her mother dies. Her father forces abortion on her more than once. These scenes aren’t explicit but you know what is going on. At first Liga doesn’t think much of it, just that she doesn’t like what her dad does in a kind of ambiguous way, but as she grows older she realizes how wrong it was. Is it pretty and fun to read about? No. This is however written about is a tasteful way that comes off more as sad than as sensationalist. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for young adults to read about rape and abuse, it helps them know when things are wrong and what types of situations to avoid.
Liga is then raped by a bunch of town boys one of which is colored. There has been a lot of uproar about the fact one of the rapists is colored. This confuses me because she is raped by multiple boys. Most of them are white and one is colored. She happens to get pregnant with the colored rapist’s child. This child ends up being Urdda who is “red-skinned” and wild and causes a lot of trouble. Many people see this as racist for some reason, but I think they need to consider the original fairy tale. Snow White (Branza) is always portrayed as the rule follower and is always as white as snow in hair and face. Rose Red (Urdda) is always portrayed as having some sort of red feature (hair, skin color, whatever) and is the wild rule breaker. I saw this whole issue as more of Lanagan being true to the fairy tale that she was retelling than really isolating a certain skin color of person. Also most of the rapists and evil people in this story are white…so how is that racist? Anyway, that’s just my take on it.
Okay, now we have most of the controversial issues out of the way. Let’s talk about the story. Liga is a victim, she was raised that way and she has trouble choosing for herself. Liga, likes having someone to tell her what to do. When bad things happen to her she deals with them and moves on, it is practical and very sad all at once. She is definitely used to no one caring if she is in pain. She tries to raise her daughters differently, but trapped in her personal Heaven there isn’t a lot of conflict around to teach them how to deal with real life.
Branza and Urdda end up both being strong characters in their own ways and I enjoyed them a lot. Both of them are a bit rebellious and learn different ways of coping when they are forced to leave Heaven and make their way through the conflict that is the real world.
I liked how there was a time difference between the two worlds, this difference in time flow added a lot of interesting aspects to the story. I liked how the two worlds were tied together by certain commonalities.
The beginning of this book is beautifully written and wonderfully paced. However for me things started to fall apart in the middle of the story. We start to jump around willy nilly between different points of view. Sometimes we hear from Branza, Liga or Urdda…then we also start to hear from the Dwarf and the boys who dress up as Bears.
This is where things start getting a bit weird. The boys who dress up as Bears for Bear Day in the real world turn into real bears when they fall into Heaven. There one of the bears befriend the three women. This gets weird because Liga kind of falls in love with Bear. The women do not know these Bears are men. Then second Bear comes to Heaven and he likes to grope Branza with his bear paws and mess around with the female bears in the forest. Not only is some of this kind of odd and disturbing…it just gets plain old boring. I mean really we could have cut 200 pages out of the middle of this book and been just fine; the pacing was just completely off.
Well, I have already written a book about this book…so I am not going to say much more. It’s kind of a shame the middle was so bogged down because some of this book is beautifully written and there are some really neat ideas in here.
Overall some parts were beautiful, some parts were downright weird, and some were just plain old boring. I love some of the ideas here, but the story just lags at points. This was one of those books by the time I got to the end I was just absolutely relieved to be done with it…it felt like it went on forever. I wish I could recommend this, but I just don’t think it is a book most people will enjoy.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– Chunkster Reading Challenge (450+ pages)
– Fairy Tales Retold Reading Challenge
– You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge
– 100 Books in a Year Reading Challenge