Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Retold Fairy Tales

Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For years, I had heard of The Lunar Chronicles and thought people were referring to the two Sega Saturn video games, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. However, seeing as most people haven’t heard of these video games, I eventually figured out that they referred to the Young Adult series of books. While 2012 was definitely around the height of the re-imagined fairy tale craze, I do have to admit that this science-fiction take on these classic stories is a fresh new way of adapting the plots that we all grew up with through Disney movies.

The first book in the series, Cinder, takes Cinderella's down-and-out heroine and updates her to a cyborg unaware of her royal origins. What made this story engaging was figuring out how the standard trappings of the Cinderella story would be adapted to this futuristic setting. Granted, this made some of the plot points more than obvious well before they happened, but I usually ended up smiling at the bits of homage that Cinder paid to its origins—such as a “pumpkin” of a car and the leaving behind of certain footwear.

While the plot was mostly predictable, I appreciated the awkward “teenager” dialogue of the titular protagonist but only to a point. I’ll admit that YA books have a kind of frenetic style that matches their main characters' emotional turbulence, and Cinder certainly reads like a teenage girl replete with the insecurities, slang, and missed steps that a full-grown adult wouldn’t necessarily have as character quirks. The problem is that having to follow such a snarky young individual for so long through the story makes it eventually grate on my nerves, especially when the path she needs to take in her life is so obvious. Then again, perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man who isn’t in-tune with the youth anymore.

A great sci-fi Cinderella retelling, I give Cinder 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Red Hood
Arnold, Elana
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Acclaimed Young Adult author Elana K. Arnold knows there is realism to be found in dark fairy tales and the award-winning author delivers once again, following up her Printz Award-winning Damsel with Red Hood (Feb. 2020), a retelling of the classic fairy tale geared toward older teens. The story centers on Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, who discovers she has inherited the instincts and supernatural strength -- triggered by menstruation during the full moon -- to stop the boys who turn into werewolves at that time from hurting the young women they prey upon. It's a violent and bloody tale enhanced by layered depictions of strong females, positive male allies and a realistic portrayal of teen life. Arnold effectively blends magical realism, dark fantasy elements and modern prose together into a disturbing but ultimately empowering story that celebrates sisterhood that spans generations while shining a light into the dark shadows of rape culture. The story quickly builds to an ending that does not disappoint.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Book Cover
Bayron, Kaylynn
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.

I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.

This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: The Guinevere Deception
White, Kiersten
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.

I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.

That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.

Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Stepsister
Donnelly, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I love well-done fairy-tale retellings and there has been a brash of good ones coming out lately. This one is wildly imaginative mash up of the fairy tale Cinderella. I loved this lush atmospheric feminine take on this classic story.

Beginning at the end of the tale we all know; Ella has just gone off with her prince to become the queen of France and start her beautiful life. And Isabelle and her sister Tavi are left behind with their harsh, overbearing mother. Having done the unthinkable and mutilated themselves for a chance at fortune and a good marriage, both Isabelle and her sister are all but shunned from the town they live in. Shortly after, a mysterious fire brings down their home and they are all left destitute. As a last resort the sisters turn to a difficult neighbor whom they barter with to allow them to stay in exchange for working on their farm. They lead a harsh life and though Isabelle wants to better herself, she soon loses all confidence in herself.

Called ugly by everyone around them Isabelle starts to believe it, until she meets a curious character who gives her the chance to change her story. Unbeknownst to her, two other forces, are also fighting for her fate, one for it the other against. Who will win? Only Isabelle can determine that.

This cleverly retold fairy tale brings a fresh take to a very old myth. It is a story of one girl’s journey of self-discovery but also a strong statement on one’s ability to determine their own course instead of following the path that society has laid out for them. Once she discovers she can control her own path, Isabelle’s intense desire to change and find redemption, coupled with her strong will, and feisty attitude develops her character in such a meaningful and real way. We all fight against stereotypes “she’s too fat” “he’s got a disability” “she’s ugly” etc.” If you’re not beautiful and perfect and an idealized version of what the world deems attractive or good, or beautiful, in other words if your different, the world will push back and fight against you. This beautiful tale reminds us that when the world pushes against you, you have the strength and the ability and the write to push back and fight against it.

Set against a backdrop of a classic story. With strong heroines, the added change of Fate and Chance as characters which I think is a awesome detail, beautiful worldbuilding and lush prose! This is feminism at its finest! Thank you to the publisher Scholastic Press and Edelweiss for my ARC for review!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Goose Girl
Hale, Shannon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was the essence of the life and struggles that can be overcome with the strength that women can hold when they believe in themselves. This book has given me a moral that treats the spirit in telling us that we can do anything if we strive for and work hard to achieve it. Great book, and great writing style. Loved every happy, and bittersweet moments that were inhabiting this story.

Reviewer's Name: Skyla N.
Spelled
Schow, Betsy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Have you ever wondered what it's like being a princess? Well, if you ask Dorthea Gale Emerald, princess of Emerald, it's not easy. Especially when the only thing you can't have is fire.

This is an amazing read about a princess you accidentally curses all of Story and embarks on a mission with a servant, her fiancé she was forced to get married to, and a pair of beautiful ruby heels. It has a lot of plot twists, romance, bickering, and , of course, villains and heroes. This book is part of a three book series and a twisted version of Wizard of Oz. There are no bad parts to the book in my eyes. The major theme is don't judge a book by it's cover. All ages can enjoy this book, but there is slight cursing and blood. So if you have a book wish list, definitely add this book to it.

Reviewer's Name: Mia G.
Heartless
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Heartless" by Marissa Meyer is near the top of my favorite books list. The book tells the story of Catherine, future Queen of Hearts in Wonderland BEFORE she was queen. Normally romance isn't my cup of tea, but the suspense from the very beginning kept me hooked. Marissa Meyer does a fantastic job of weaving her story with the original; including some of the old cast (The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat, for instance) while giving us fresh characters who will steal your heart (Catherine, Jest, and The Sisters). I found this book through my love of other Marissa Meyer novels like the Lunar Chronicles. I would definitely suggest it to any teenager looking for a fun twist on a classic story.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Adia R.
The Hazel Wood
Albert, Melissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Hazel Wood is an interesting mix of modern perspective and fairy tale magic. This book took a Grimm's fairy tale turn in it's dark and twisting paths. The main character has always been followed by bad luck and when she goes back to her dead grandmother's estate, she finds out why. I really enjoyed this book as a fan of fairy tales and darker ideas. I would recommend this book for fairy tale lovers and people who have a love for the darker side of the world.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Echo North
Meyer, Joanna Ruth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Would you all like to know what kept me up, new years eve, until 1 am? It was not the obvious fact that it was new year’s eve, and staying up until 12am was what we are all supposed to do, right? No! It was the simple reason, that I was spellbound and entranced, by this beautiful fairy tale of a book, and could not get away until I knew what happened. This tale captivated me and wouldn’t let go. This fable is a brilliant and magical retelling of a Norwegian tale called East of the Sun West of the Moon with references to other fairytales smattered throughout including Tam Lin and Psyche.

It’s basic premise is that one day after her father leaves town and mysteriously disappears, Echo Alkaev goes to look for him. She finds him on the brink of death. In order to save him she is sucked into a deal, by the same talking white wolf which disfigured her face and whom, she saved years before. A deal that will define and change the rest of her life. Live with me for a year in my enchanted house under the mountain, and I will save your father. There is only one rule, you cannot look upon me at night. Desperate and scared, and propelled by the mystery surrounding him, she does as she is asked.

She is soon launched into a magical world she never knew existed. With an enchanted house; in each room a different magical wonder, woven together like a tapestry; a magical library, with books explored through mirrors that one could travel into and experience, the four winds, a witch, a goddess and, a dreadful curse; Echo finds this world, on the edge of magic itself, dark, mysterious, lonely, full of peril, and wonder, and fantastical beyond belief. But more importantly, she finds a resiliency and strength in herself she never knew she possessed, the capacity to love beyond belief, and the courage to do what’s right even in the most dangerous of circumstances.

This book is filled with so many layers, it’s impossible to describe them all here, but suffice it to say, that if you let it, this story will weave itself into an incredible tapestry around you. It’s filled with so many different worlds that I just wanted to dive into and stay there forever. It’s filled with likable and relateablecharacters that felt like friends. Hal, the love interest, the tortured and lonely white wolf, Echo, the heroine, and so many lovable side characters, I can’t choose. It’s filled with vivid prose and world building and just so much goodness, and magic, and love, I just can’t even….

All I can say is pick up this book when it comes out. If you love fairy tales, and magic and heart felt story telling that will get you lost in worlds you don’t want to leave, and heart wrenching secrets that will make you happy and sad all at the same time. Than do yourself a favor and pick up this wonderful, fable! Total5 star read for me all the way! Thank you to Netgalley and Page Street Publishing for a Digital Review Copy for review. This comes out January 15 but you can pre order it, or put it on hold at your local library today!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Vassa in the Night
Porter, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this wildly imaginative and wacky story, the main character Vassa and her trusty living doll Erg must survive the dangers of a magical Brooklyn, convenience store, and the possibility of beheading. This story takes a modern and dark take on the Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful" as Vassa struggles with who she is and what she wants from the world. I found this book very interesting because it is much different from many of the other books I have read. This story is odd, quirky, and disconcerting to a degree as for a while you have no idea what is going on. The whole book almost seems to be an odd delusion or hallucination. I enjoyed reading this book because I am so used to flat or normal stories that have a clear indication of whats going on and it was fun to have to think and question what was going on.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Awards:
Fairest
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Fairest" by Marissa Meyer is actually a prequel to "The Lunar Chronicles," but (to me) is meant to be read AFTER reading the main four books. This book is all about Queen Levana, the main antagonist of "The Lunar Chronicles." The story shows the reader all the reasons why she is the way she is, and shows us the events that happened to start the series. "Fairest" is about The Evil Queen, who brought the most grief to the "princesses" of the first four books.

Overall, the book is a very good read after reading the main four books. Reading the book before may be confusing. The characterization of Queen Levana is truly amazing, as more often than not, antagonists are not given enough character, and are not explained well. Some aspects of the story are predictable if you have already read the series, but not all scenes are. This book answers many questions about Queen Levana, and is definitely worth the read.

*Do note that "Fairest" was published before "Winter" and that you can read all of the side books in whatever order you like.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Paige P.
Winter
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As a continuation and last book from "The Lunar Chronicles," "Winter" by Marissa Meyer is truly just as good as the past three books in the series.
This book is another re-imagining of the old fairy tale Snow White, but is written in such a way that it is barely recognize that aspect unless you knew before. Winter, the protagonist of this story, is a lunar who refuses to use her naturally gifted powers, and it is slowly driving her crazy. Many consider her to be the most beautiful lunar there is. As the crazy daughter of the queen, she allowed to live. Well, that's as long as nobody likes her more than the queen.

Overall, the story is very well written, and a great last book. The books answers many unsolved mysteries, and ties up everything nicely. The characters are once again very well characterized, and the ending is as enjoyable as an ending to get. All chapters continue to move the plot, and there aren't too many extra ideas. Truly a great end to "The Lunar Chronicles," which is worth the read.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Paige P.
Cress
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Cress" by Marissa Meyer is a big twist of the fairy tale "Rapunzel," where the character Cress Moon Darnel is introduced in a remote satellite that she has lived in for many years of her life. Cress has not left for years, and kept herself sane by programming her own voice into an AI. When she is contacted by Cinder and her crew, she sees not just hope, but also a very attractive pilot named Carswell Thorne. This encounter with Linh Cinder begins Cress' journey to Earth, and her pursuit of saving the other Lunars of the world.

This book is a great read for those who enjoy fantasy, science fiction, action, and well balanced romance. The book, just like its predecessors, is excellently written. The amount of characters have increased significantly since the first book in "The Lunar Chronicles," yet each character from before has grown, and the new characters are just as in-depth. The conflicts are rising, and the stakes are growing higher and higher. As the book pushes the protagonists to the main antagonist, the plot and characters never weaken. Overall, the book was relatively unpredictable, and had many turns that just added to the story. Like in the other books, all of the characters had relatable traits and conflicts, which continued to make the story better.
"Cress" is truly one of the best books for characters and creativity, and continuing "The Lunar Chronicles."

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Paige P.
Scarlet
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Scarlet" by Marissa Meyer is a twist of "Little Red Riding Hood," where the main character, Scarlet Benoit, lived with her grandmother until her grandmother disappears. While the police force have given up the search for Scarlet's grandmother, Scarlet is determined to find her, believing that her grandmother was kidnapped rather than ran away. She meets a man named Wolf at work, where her living situation is turned upside down after she pronounces her belief that Linh Cinder was innocent. The road is long and hard, but Scarlet WILL find her grandmother by any means possible.

This book is an amazing read for those who interest in fantasy, a mix of science fiction, action, and romance. Just like the first book "Cinder," "Scarlet" is just as amazingly written as its predecessor. As part of "The Lunar Chronicles," this book continues to show the readers more about the world, and begins showing the secrets of the main characters and antagonist.

The books is exceptional with its characters, chapters, and conflicts. It makes sure that all action is balanced and realistic. Some parts of the story were predictable, such as the romance, but the obstacles the couple faces, along with the conflicts with everyone else are unpredictable enough to make the story interesting. The main characters are relatable, yet so unique. This story, along with the rest of the series, is one of the best books for excellent fantasy and storytelling.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Paige P.
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Cinder" is a twist of the old fairy tale "Cinderella," where the main character, Cinder, has a step-mother, two sisters, and cyborg parts attached to her body (much to the citizens of New Bejing's disgust). Cinder is a mechanic who does work for her step-mother along with her companion Iko, and she has dreams of leaving her step-mother's home, though she stays for her sister Peony.

Cinder meets the prince of New Beijing, Prince Kaito. She finds that Kai is a very attractive person, just as everyone in the city says, but also finds her attention turned toward unfortunate event after unfortunate event. Her world changes when her sister contracts the deadly disease, letumosis.

Overall, this book is truly a wonderful book for both romance and action. While the plot is a twist of the story "Cinderella," Marissa Meyer does an excellent job of making the idea extremely unique to the point that the book hardly seems like a twist of Cinderella. The amount of action; internal and external conflicts; and in-depth relationships are written in an exciting way that makes every chapter worth reading. Since this is the first book in "The Lunar Chronicles," "Cinder" sets up the main conflicts and first main characters for the rest of the series exceptionally well. While the main protagonists are very likable and relatable, the main antagonist is truly twisted and very well written with the knowledge that is given in the first book. The book was rarely predictable, and is an amazing piece of fiction.

This book, along with the rest of the series, is one of the best books for both great characters and a unique story idea.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Paige P.
Scarlet
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the thrilling sequel to Cinder. Scarlet is a continuation of Cinder’s story while retelling another fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood. Generally, I feel like the sequels are never as good as the original, but that was not the case for this book. Scarlet was definitely my favorite book in the entire series (besides Winter). I fell completely in love with the new characters (especially Scarlet). Marissa Meyer has a talent for creating likable and relatable characters. She also has a talent for describing the setting. Cinder took place in Beijing while Scarlet took place in France. Meyer illustrated France just as vividly as she illustrated Beijing. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction or anyone who enjoyed Cinder.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a fast-paced and action-packed book that you can't put down. The book is a futuristic and dystopian retelling of the classic fairytale, Cinderella. This is definitely one of my favorite books. You won't find another science fiction book with as many interesting and diverse female characters. The book has a very exciting plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. In addition to that, Cinder has many amazing characters. I couldn't pick my favorite one. All of the characters are lovable and distinct. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the setting. I loved Meyer’s vision of what the future would look like. She described the setting perfectly. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science fiction or fantasy genres.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Book Review: Wolves and Roses
Bauer, Christina
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Wolves And Roses by Christina Bauer is placed in a similar world to ours, but in this world there is a race known as the Magicorum. The Magicorum are the descendants of shifters, fairies, and witches from fairy tale stories. This book tells the story of Bryar Rose, who has the life template of Sleeping Beauty. Or, in other words, she's destined to live a life similar to Sleeping Beauty. The problem is that Bryar has no interest in living a fairy tale life, all she wants to do is go to a normal school with normal people. Her dream can happen, but she has to convince her guidance counselor, who wants her live the perfect Sleeping Beauty template, to let her go to her dream school. Bryar's plan is to get her counselor to sign the necessary papers for her dream school and live a normal life. But, all her plans are turned upside down when she meets a mysterious boy, who shows her that things aren't what they seem to be and the people she thought she knew are really strangers to her. I would rate this book an five out of five because it was an amazing romance and a great twist on a classic fairy tale.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F
Book Review: Wicked
Gregory Maguire
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Set in the Land of Oz with all of your favorite characters, Wicked by Gregory MaGuire is one for the books. Despite not having written the original book, McGuire is able to captivate the same feelings in his prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Instead of following around Dorthy, we get to see the intriguing side of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. The story follows her life from birth to the end of The Wizard of Oz. In the middle, we see her life and what lead her to be the way that she ended up being. Her struggles and hardships are demonstrated to the reader in almost an attempt to justify her actions. The book details her relationships and experiences with all of the people who have come into her life. The book gradually turns into a book about self-acceptance and ignorance is not always bliss, rather than just a life narrative.
Gregory MaGuire, is one of a kind. He is able to make his audience view one of the most classic books (The Wizard of Oz) in a completely new way. He stays true to the original story, yet changes the whole context that the Wicked Witch is put in. I initially picked up this book because it was recommended to me by a Broadway fanatic, and I will definitely be picking up the next few in the series very soon. The book is addicting and leaves you needing more. It is definitely one of the top three books that I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: Emma K.

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