YA Recommendation: Alex Flinn’s Modern Fairy Tales

I won an ARC of MIRRORED, Alex Flinn’s Snow White retelling (scheduled to come out in September) from Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog. After finishing it, I had to go back and read the rest of these modern fairy tale retellings. I wouldn’t call them a series, but a few of them are connected through Kendra, a witch who appears as a mentor to the evil stepmother character in MIRRORED. Understanding why she might have missed the signs with Violet was one of the reasons I wanted to go back and read the other books, but really I just love fairy tale retellings, which you already know :). The books include:

BEASTLY – Beauty and the Beast

A KISS IN TIME – Sleeping Beauty

CLOAKED – A mash-up of The Frog Prince, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad, The Fisherman and His Wife

BEWITCHING – mainly Cinderella with a short version of The Little Mermaid

TOWERING – Rapunzel

Since MIRRORED is the book coming out this year, I’ll include the cover and description below. You can read these out of order. However, in MIRRORED Kendra does mention incidents that happened in the other two books in which she appeared (BEASTLY and BEWITCHING). It doesn’t really spoil anything since these are familiar fairy tales anyway, but they don’t stick exactly to the original tales. Also, although Kendra is not a POV character in MIRRORED (it starts with Violet, then the Snow White character, Celine, and finally a boy named Goose), I still found myself questioning her motives–thus the reading back through the earlier books. Anyway, here’s the info on MIRRORED:

Mirrored by Alex FlinnMirror, mirror in my hand…

Beauty is the key to everything. At least, that’s how it seems to Violet—ugly, bullied, and lonely. To be beautiful, in her eyes, is to have power and love. And when Kendra, the witch, teaches Violet how to use magic, she may finally get what she wants.

For Celine, beautiful since birth, her looks have been a hindrance. She discovers that beauty is also a threat—especially to her stepmother, Violet, who doesn’t want anyone sharing the attention she worked so hard to get and who will do anything to be the fairest of them all.

But beauty isn’t only skin deep and love isn’t based on looks alone. And though Violet and Celine may seem to be completely opposite, their lives are almost…MIRRORED.

Here are the five things I loved most about this collection of modern fairy tales:

1. Commentary on beauty – Beauty was a major theme in both MIRRORED and BEASTLY, and I really liked how Ms. Flinn explored both sides of it. As you can see from the description above, the main characters in MIRRORED are victimized both for having/not having beauty. I thought she handled it very well.

2. Flawed characters Ms. Flinn has a knack for writing flawed characters and getting you to cheer them on. I didn’t like either character in A KISS IN TIME at first but as they adapted to their circumstances and got to know each other, they made each other better. BEASTLY was all about a horrible boy becoming a better person. Even villains have an opportunity to show you their side of the story. As I mentioned above, MIRRORED starts out from the future stepmother’s viewpoint.

3. Unexpected – Just when you think you know where the story’s going, it surprises you, and actually in a way that makes perfect sense with the familiar tale. There was one in particular that led me down a path I wasn’t sure I liked, and I was so happy when it surprised me. I’m not going to say which one it was so I don’t give anything away.

4. Magic in the real world – It’s always interesting to me how an author chooses to have characters react to the existence of magic. I liked the way doctors tried to find an explanation for the beastly curse and people came up with logical explanations for everything a princess who had been asleep for 300 years said. Of course, there were other times when the characters just had to admit there were no explanations :).

5. The romance – Hey, these are fairy tales, so I have to talk about the romance. What I liked about the romances in these stories was that they were about more than physical attraction. The characters got to know each other–in most of the books over a decent amount of time. Only one was pretty much love at first sight, but we can let one slide :).

If you haven’t already read these books, I recommend starting with BEASTLY and working your way through them so you can be ready when MIRRORED comes out in the fall. If you have already read them, which was your favorite?

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