Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.
I picked this book up because the premise sounded kinda cool. A fairy tale being told by an older brother to his younger sister to escape the crap of reality? Awesome. Guys, I was in no way prepared for this book really is. It hurt me in a beautiful way. (What?)
So, if you’ve read the summary above, you know what the book is about. What drew me in was the fairy tale. This is not your average sweet Disney tale, this fairy tale is something the Grimms brothers would be impressed by. It is as imaginatively beautiful as it is darkly twisted, and gets even more and more twisted as the story goes.
Then there’s, you know, the rest of the book. First of all, I have to stand up and mention Anna. I feel like I haven’t noted a truly strong female character in a review lately, but she is it. There are situations Anna faces in the most amazingly brave way possible. Me? I would be curled in a little ball in the shower, my tears running into the drain. But her? No way. This wasn’t something I really thought about until I’d finished and the book was plaguing my mind as I expect it to for the next week or two, but it slowly dawned on me how flat-out amazing she is throughout the whole thing. She easily makes my Most Bad Ass Females list.
If I mention Anna, I have to mention Abel. Abel is far, far, far from a perfect character. He is absolutely not the obviously swoon-worthy boy that dominates YA these days. But there is something about him that’s not easy to put into words. Something that even after his most despicable moment, I had to put the book down for an hour because I was so disconcerted over it and kept thinking to myself “but he is a good boy”. There aren’t many moments in books where I had to actually put a book down and take a break. It was hard, gut-wrenching and it was Abel’s screwed-up-ness that went there. In some ways, he reminds me of Lochlan from Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden. But not in an incest-y way.
That being said, Anna and Abel form the totally not perfect couple that (again) is so dominate in YA. Since the first moment where Abel is playing a single father role, Anna becomes a sort of surrogate mother to Abel’s little sister Micha. While this is merely my view and is never expressly said, it does mature the whole thing up. Lots of silly, giggly making out sessions, there are not. But I felt it went for something deeper that ended up being all the more gut-wrenching.
It’s hard to talk about the plot too much past what I’ve already said because there is an element of mystery to it and I really, really don’t want to spoil this one. So I’ll stick with simple here. This book takes situations of drug dealing, guardianship and abuse (to name a few) and blurs the lines of right and wrong so much so that even *I* couldn’t decide how I felt at any given time. After one very intense moment of this when I had to take that break, it was mainly because I couldn’t decide how I felt about it and the fact that I had discovered some undefined grey area in my own personal beliefs, unnerved me.
I don’t recommend this book for everyone, while it’s not too explicitly graphic, there are situations of violence, murder, and abuse. That being said, I do similarly recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma.