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Faithful readers of my blog know I am a voracious reader. I love tween/teen fiction best. And, as a homeschooling mom, I’m very particular about what my kids read, thus, I generally read most titles before they do, unless I am very familiar with the series or author, and they have already made the cut.
Additionally, I just love the genre enough that I often read tween/teen/YA fiction “just because,” and because I am a Christian mom, I just don’t like a lot of the garbage out there in the fiction category for grown-ups (not to say that doesn’t happen with YA literature, too…). Thus, I am blogging about many of my reads, to help Christian parents find good, current literature, and discussing my finds from a Christian worldview to pinpoint any areas that may be of concern.
With that in mind, let’s get to today’s offerings:
I have always loved fairy and folk tales and re-tellings/re-imaginings. In college, as a Child Development major, I was fascinated by Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, discussing the psychology and need behind these tales to help us resolve conflict in the “real world.”
This was all many years ago. I’ve since become a Christian, and, yes, one of “those” Christians who just doesn’t play around with witchcraft-y things. That said, both of the stories I’m reviewing today have very mild instances, rather more like a backdrop or subplot.
Talk about your empowered female! Wow! Kyra (or “Kitty” :::gigglesnort::: *) is one tough cookie! That’s the beauty of this story and what I liked best. This girl is accused of trying to murder a princess (who happens to be her best friend)…um…and it’s sorta true. But….and that “but” is the whole story, so I can’t give it away.
Kyra is resourceful, uses ingenuity, is pretty funny, and really doesn’t “need” some guy rescuing her (though, having one, as Kyra soon finds, isn’t such a bad proposition).
The story is an intriguing one, and well told. The characters are believable, as is the dialog. However, the dialog is one of two negatives I have regarding this book: it contains some mild potty language. Nothing you wouldn’t find on TV during a show for older teens/adults, but certainly enough that a Christian family would probably take a pass on this title. Mild spoiler alert: The other issue that might give a parent pause is the one scene where Kyra is under-dressed for the occasion. Nothing titillating or any fault of either party, but without giving away too much, there is a definite “awareness.”
Title: Rapunzel Untangled
Author: Cindy Bennett
Format: Hardcover (so far)
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Price: Retails for 16.99
Publishing Date: Expected February 12, 2013
Rapunzel Untangled is pretty dark, but then again, most fairy tales are!
Imagine Rapunzel as a teen with an illness that forces her away from the “real world,” where her only outside communication comes in the form of Facebook messaging. What a premise! Seems far-fetched maybe, but so are most of the fairy tale set ups! This one actually makes a bit more sense, when you think of it.
This story has a more prominent witchcraft backdrop, and some of those scenes are so unbelievably “fantastic” that I really skimmed over them, and focused on the fore-plot.
The hardest part about this book (mild spoiler alert) would be the depiction of mental illness. It’s heartbreaking to read, and so infused in the storyline. It’s brilliant, but it’s very dark and uber-tragic.
The story itself is clean. Yes, there is romance, but it’s all very tame, and actually very sweet, considering how naive our heroine is given her lack of outside contact. It’s a re-imagining of a fairy tale, so we aren’t really looking for believability, though I think the author does paint Rapunzel and Fab Fane Flannigan (not crazy about the name!) fairly realistically (despite the names!).
Unlike Poison, Rapunzel Untangled has a heroine that isn’t brassy and independent, and the plot really depends on a “rescuer.” That said, Rapunzel has an inner courage, and frankly, given mental illness issue, one that is so stunning in the face of such abuse, you have to applaud her.
Both books are written for those much older than my own kids, and both slant to the female teen market (though guys might appreciate how cool Poison‘s Fred is!).
* How she comes by this name is the “gigglesnort”
Mama’s Note: My daughter and I are embarking upon a series of reviews together. This entry represents the first in the series: Samphire Song.
Plot Summary: A young teen, Jodie, is dealing with major issues in life: the death of her father two years before, and the chronic illness of her beloved younger brother. In what amounts to equine therapy, Jodie is able to indulge in a long-held dream and purchase a horse. The two bond, until tragedy strikes, and Jodie is forced to sell Samphire.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so let me set up my reaction to the book by divulging a bit about myself. When I was a child, I was not allowed to watch the TV show Lassie. I couldn’t handle “mild animal peril” and would just freak out and cry thus Lassie was banned. At seven, I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the theater showing Disney’s Bambi during “The Scene With Bambi’s Mom.” As an adult, I lost it for a good 45 minutes over “Uncle Elizabeth” in the movie I Remember Mama (in all fairness, I was severely PMS-ing!).
So, I have to tell you, I started crying shortly after beginning Samphire Song. I cried, and cried, and cried so much it was embarrassing — and really never stopped crying until I was done with the book. My kids know about my waterworks, and it’s somewhat of a family joke (as it was with my mom growing up!). At one point my youngest came in, took one look at me, smiled and said, “Sad book, Mama?”
The Good: The book is wonderful. It hits so many themes: love (of family, of pet, of dreams realized), sacrifice, loss, need, crippling fears, single parenting, friendship and so much more! It is written in a warm style, with believable dialog and characters.
The Bad: It’s intense. My 11-year-old didn’t have the reaction I did, but some kids who are very sensitive will. The book discusses parental death, a child whose health is in jeopardy, and animal cruelty.
The Ugly: The book graphically depicts animal cruelty. It doesn’t last horribly long, but it is very graphic and very intense. It is not gratuitous, but it is hard to read through. The younger brother is a hoot, and the humorous banter helps break up the intensity.
Overall, I think it is a well-written book that tells a great story. I think it will engage those who love animals, particularly horse-lovers (my daughter is in the mini-horse project in 4-H). The female protagonist will appeal to girls, and the brother, Ed, may well draw in male readers, thus I wouldn’t say it’s “just” a “girl’s book.” Due to the mature themes, I might question the decision to let a 9-year-old (the minimum suggested age) read this, unless the child is exceptionally mature.
For my daughter’s take on the book, she has written a review on her own blog: Swim Girl Reviews Samphire Song
Here is the piece I contributed to for National Adoption Awareness Month:
Why do many families choose to adopt children even after they have biological kids? iVoices Sharon Rowley and Marie Stroughter take you on their adoption journeys and explain why they expanded their family through adoption.
Click here to go to the video on iVillage
My speech at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally in San Francisco on Saturday, October 20, 2012: