Sneak Peek Weekends

May Sneak Peek Weekends #1

We’ve finally made it to June again, which means summer is basically here! To celebrate, I’ve got a handful of new YA releases from the past month that give you those vacation vibes!

Grit

Author: Gillian French

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: May 16, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, Asking For It, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Secret Life of Bees

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I swore I wouldn’t come back here this summer, not to Mrs. Wardwell’s foghorn voice and blisters the size of nickles. But when I went down to Gaudreau’s Take-Out on the last day of school and asked for an application, you know what Mr. Gaudreau said? “Sorry, honey pie, this is a family business.”

I’m kicking this off with a bit of a dud. Unfortunately, this one just doesn’t grab me. I’m afraid the synopsis does far more to intrigue the reader than the actual writing itself does. There’s no buildup of tension to plant the seeds for this mystery/thriller and the first mention that the best friend’s gone missing isn’t a proper reveal moment, it feels more like a throwaway line. Not the best representation of whatever’s to come. As the title semi-cleverly suggests, the novel is set in the South. The sociolect used between the characters is very foreign to me as a result and it’s not a great way to draw me in when I already feel alienated by the completely lack of any hook. Aside from that, the only other thing I can gleen from this opener is that there are boys and small town slut-shaming gossip. Which, if there was any hint that French was really going somewhere profound with it, I’d be all for. Yet it feels more like the usual mean girls plot and I honestly don’t need another one of these in the world. I’m bored and it’s just not doing a single thing for me.

 

Romancing the Throne

Author: Nadine Jolie Courtney

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Published: May 30, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, The Raven Boys, The Princess Diaries, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Rainbow Rowell.

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My serve has been my secret weapon ever since I mastered it at Wimbledon junior tennis camp two summers ago. The moment I arch my back and feel my racket make contact with the ball, I know Libby is done for.

She runs for it, almost tripping over herself in her haste to get to the corner. The ball slices right and smashes into the hedges. She’s not fast enough.

Game, set, match.

I can see exactly where this slots into the market, which is a huge plus whether it’s good or not. It’s another privileged rich white girl prep school plot. It’s tired and again, we don’t need another one of these. But I will say, for what it is, I could easily see this one as a fun, trashy airplane read. Pick it up at the airport during your layover alongside your pack of gum and People Magazine and just switch off for two or three hours. Maybe The Princess Diaries is playing on the plane. I don’t know. But that’s the exact type of book this is. I wouldn’t personally publish it, because it’s a little too vapid. As fluffy chick lit though, it gets the job done.

Girl Out of Water

Author: Laura Silverman

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Published: May 2, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

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I float in the Pacific Ocean.

As I straddle my longboard, cool water lapping around me, I watch surfers up and down the coast take on baby waves, four-footers that will carry them a short distance before breaking into froth and foam.

I’m waiting for something better.

This is essentially the plot of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants book where Bridget goes to the South to visit her grandmother and figures out who she is. Again, nothing new, but apparently, that’s what sells in the summer… It’s variations on a theme and they all look like identical slices of Wonderbread. I’m not overly impressed to be honest.

Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: May 9, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Nina Lacour, The Impossible, The Hate U Give, History is All You Left Me

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This is a memory I want to keep forever: Grace standing at the stove of her parents’ rental cottage in one of her dad’s oversized T-shirts as she makes us a can of SpaghettiOs. Her mom already cleaned out the fridge and cabinets, throwing away anything with an expiration date.

I’m just gonna say it: I think Balzer & Bray have their finger on the pulse on what is not only good literature, but what readers are dying to see in terms of representation these days. They know what’s up. (For those of you who don’t know, they’ve also published The Hate U Give, based on the Black Lives Matter movement and Murphy’s other novel, Dumplin’, featuring a fat-positive message, both of which are acclaimed.) Ramona Blue only clinches my theory because this is another story not only featuring wlw characters (I believe in this instance, at least one of the leads is bi and in a relationship with another girl), but also set to a backdrop of post-Hurricane Katrina America. It’s vivid and real and full of visceral longing and I think of all the May 2017 releases, this is the one I’m most excited to pick up and read from cover to cover.

 

What are your favourite fluffy books set in the summer?

 

Sneak Peek Weekends

March Sneak Peek Previews #2

I’m rounding out the month with some of March’s contemporaries for you guys!

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Inexplicable Logic

I have a memory that is almost like a dream: the yellow leaves from Mima’s mulberry tree are floating down from the sky like giant snowflakes.

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Published: March 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: History is all You Left Me, At the Edge of the Universe, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, David Leviathan, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, A List of Cages, Perks of Being a Wallflower

As an agent or acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication?

Full disclosure, I have not read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, (not that you’d need to  – this one isn’t the long-awaited sequel), so I’m going in completely blind. I expected Saenz’ writing to be more poetic for some reason. It’s not doing a ton of things any different than the contemporary authors I’ve read lately. But it does feel very true to the teen experience, so I definitely understand why teens are so attached to his writing in that sense. I do like seeing more and more stories written by male authors about boys who cry and feel things. It’s important for boys to see themselves in the stories they read, and be told that they’re allowed to be emotional, to let it all out. Toxic masculinity hurts boys just as much as it hurts girls in the realm of patriarchy and feminism, so it’s nice to see more authors taking on that conversation. The narrative voice also has a lot of character; it’s engaging. The dialogue is so realistic, and so natural, it’s easy to forget you’re even reading.

In terms of if I would personally pick it for publication, it’s a bit unfair of me to say I wouldn’t, simply based on my leaning more toward fantasy, but that’s how publishers/agents are like in real life… And that’s why we have publishers and their imprints specialising in different genres! What doesn’t fancy one agent or publisher would be gold for someone else! That doesn’t make this one a bad read at all. In fact, I would highly recommend it to readers, especially those who already love Saenz’s work. It’s nice that Clarion at Houghton Mifflin picked this one up! (Fun fact: Simon & Schuster have full bragging rights for snapping up Aristotle and Dante, meaning Saenz is published under different houses…)

You’re Welcome, Universe

You're Welcome

Six stencils in and it’s gone. Okay, the tag vanished by Stencil Number Two, but I have a point to prove. I’m not covering up your scribbled slur with just anything, I’m making art here. I’m creating. I’m on fire.

Author: Whitney Gardner

Publisher: Knopf

Published: March 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: History is all you left me, Love and First Sight, The Fault in Our Stars

As an agent or acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication?

I’m not terribly interested in a graffiti plot, so I wouldn’t personally publish it, but the hook is both interesting and important. I’m seeing more and more disabled characters in YA lately, which is really nice. I’ve seen a handful of blind protagonists, but I don’t think I’ve seen any deaf protagonists until now. I’m so glad YA authors are starting to write stories about disabled characters doing normal teenage things, getting into trouble, being rebellious, talking back… All these things you’d expect from an able-bodied character. Almost as if they’re ordinary people or something… hmmm…

In any case, good on Knopf for bringing representation where representation is needed. See? Look how easy that was. Publishers, take note!

 

Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days

Depending on who–sorry, whom– you ask, I may have killed my three best friends.

Author: Jeff Zentner

Publisher: Tundra Book

Published: March 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: A Good Idea, History is All You Left Me, All the Bright Places

As an agent or acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication?

Wow, that opening line gives me chills… This may be because I’ve got morbid interests, but this is the exact kind of contemporary I’m into. I could probably read contemporary YA novels about death forever. I don’t like happy, fluffy novels. That’s why I don’t read contemporaries that often. Which is why I’m so here for all these heart-wrenching contemporaries that really go through the motions in terms of addressing grief and trauma. I will always defend YA novels that deal with real, hard truths of being a teen that go beyond the everyday rabble. People die, and teens struggle with that. It’s important that they have a voice to speak for them, and tell them that they’re not alone. I support that and I will continue supporting that. Also, the consequence of texting while driving is something I rarely see addressed without being condescending. Teens know it’s bad, but there’s that assumption that if it’s going to happen to someone, it’s definitely not going to happen to them. And I think it’s nice to bring it back to them in a shocking way that talks to their level. This is where I might make an exception in my extremely sci-fi/fantasy based imaginary agency/publishing house and choose this one for publication. Or at least pass it on to a more contemporary imprint.

 

Sneak Peek Weekends

March Sneak Peek Weekends #1

The first sneak peek of March releases is another set of YA fantasies! Let’s see if they’re worth a read!

Hunted

Hunted

We always know before the change comes. When a storm approaches, we feel it in the thickness of the air, the tension in the earth awaiting the  blanket of snow. We feel the moment the wind changes direction. We sense a shift of power when it is coming.

Author: Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: March 14, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Beauty and the Beast, The Lunar Chronicles, The Shadow Queen/The Wish Granter, Long May She Reign, Court of Thorns and Roses, The Bloody Chamber, Cruel Beauty, Robin Mckinley, The Beast is an Animal, Wintersong, Uprooted

As an agent or acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication?

As I’ve mentioned in previous sneak peeks, fairy tale retellings are very in, and for some reason, Beauty and the Beast is especially hot right now. I’m not sure what the draw is to be honest (though the new movie was a dream). I find this particular fairy tale hasn’t done many authors any favour recently. Sarah J Maas and Rosamund Hodge have both tried their hand with varying success, but I can’t really say either have done anything revolutionary or beautifully written with it.

This one might finally break the cycle.

I’m not sure why almost every single Beauty and the Beast retelling has to start with Beauty and her sisters doing something mundane before the action picks up, but I want something more exciting to open the story for once… Sarah J. Maas almost does it, but her downfall is her weak character development and terrible writing… This is beautifully written, but slow on the pick up.

Because Beauty and the Beast has been done over and over and over so often, would my instinct be to give this one a go as an agent? I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s enough to set it apart, but I genuinely hope there’s something here!

Blood Rose Rebellion

Blood Rose Rebellion

I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut. Indeed, there were any number of things I deliberately did not do that day. I did not pray for rain as I knelt in the small chapel of our London town house that morning, the cold of the floor seeping into my bones.

Author: Rosalyn Eves

Publisher: Knopf

Published: March 28, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Throne of Glass, Red Queen, Hunger Games, Rebel of the Sands, Divergent, Dark Days Club, These Ruthless Masks, Stalking Jack the Ripper,The Tempest

Would I select this for publication?:

This one has a nice flip to the current fantasy YA trend of special magic girl who wants to be normal. Instead, everyone’s magical and she’s not. I like it… but is that enough? This could go one of two ways: this means she got non-magical talents, or she’s more powerful than anyone else and hasn’t grown into her power yet. If it’s the former, I’m into it. If it’s the latter, we’re just falling back into the usual fantasy conventions which drive me up the wall… I do find the immediate introduction of a love interest concerning. It feels like the protagonist is going to seek validation based on a boy’s interest in her and that’s never a good sign. Unfortunately, what I’m getting most from this opener is that the protagonist is useless and boring and everyone keeps treating her like a child. The inciting incident is showcasing her fighting over a boy with her sister and it’s not endearing in the least. This one would go in the no pile, for sure.

Books, Sneak Peek Weekends

February Sneak Peek Weekends #4

This week’s sneak peeks are two books focusing on minority characters. Although they may not be meant for me, they’ll undoubtedly resonate with readers they’re representing!

At the Edge of the Universe

edge of the universe

 I sat beside the window pretending to read Plato’s Republic as the rest of the passengers boarding Flight 1184 zombie-walked to their seats. The woman next to me refused to lower her armrest, and the chemical sweetness of her perfume coated my tongue and the back of my throat. I considered both acts of war.

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: February 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: We are the Ants, History is All You Left Me, Dante and Aristotle, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Final Destination

If I were an agent/acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

 

I know I only have the first twenty pages to go off of, but this one isn’t doing anything for me. The blurb promises a unique plot in the form of a male protagonist searching for his missing boyfriend. It’s doing similar things as History is All You Left Me, which makes me think this novel shouldn’t be ignored in terms of LGBT content, which although growing, is still pretty sparse.

In terms of its opening sequence, it’s slow building. This setup is likely intentional to lull the reader into a false sense of security. It takes ten pages to get going. I don’t know if I’d read that far before making a decision in terms of pitch selection. There’s no indication that the inciting incident is a plane crash by the blurb, so I wouldn’t necessarily have much to go on if this were pitched to me. As a mere reader, though, the cliffhanger at the end of the first chapter is a solid hook that leaves you curious.

Hutchinson is engaging with the world in ways I don’t ordinarily see male writers doing. Very early on in the text, he shames frat boys for boasting about date rape. More male writers should be engaging with this kind of discourse, even if it’s for a quick, throwaway line. I do find, however, that this protagonist is a little man-splainy, which is what I hate about male writers in general. But as far as male writers go, this one’s hardly offensive.

From a publisher’s perspective, this is an interesting case, because while books with gay protagonists are in the minority, such manuscripts shouldn’t receive a free pass. Which is why many publishers don’t necessarily see the potential in so many of these books. I, for instance, wouldn’t be the agent or publisher to publish this one, but that doesn’t by any means mean it shouldn’t be on the shelves.

The Education of Margot Sanchez

the education of margot sanchez

A cashierista with flaming orange-red hair invades my space the minute I step inside the supermarket. I search for Papi but he’s walked ahead into his office already.

Author: Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Published: February 21, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Allegedly, Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin

Would I Publish This?

I am so clearly not the right audience for this novel. This is clearly meant for Latinx readers, which is hardly a bad thing whatsoever. The fact that I can count the amount of Latinx narratives I’ve engaged with lately on one hand is distressing and should be challenged in the contemporary literary canon.

I have no idea if this plot is going anywhere particularly bold or revolutionary in terms of messages, but the opener suggests Rivera isn’t trying to say anything too important with her narrative. The protagonist comes off as vapid and uninteresting. I personally find characters who natter on about their clothes and their “big booty” to be a giant turn off. I don’t know if this is some kind of reflection of Latinx culture or not, but it’s not an aspect I’m keen to engage with.

Books, Sneak Peek Weekends

February Sneak Peek Weekend #3

This week’s Sneak Peek celebrates the ever-growing representation of mental illness in YA!

10 Things I Can See From Here

10 Things

I could easily admit that it was nicer and faster to take the train from Seattle to Vancouver. But the last time I took the train, a woman threw herself in front of it just outside Everett.

Author: Carrie Mac

Publisher: Knopf

Published: February 28, 2017

For Those Who LIked: All the Bright Places, Perks of Being a Wallflower, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, History is All You Left Me, A List of Cages, Girl on the Train

If I were an agent/acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

Absolutely.

This is a silly, subjective thing, but Mac immediately sets the setting of Seattle and Vancouver, which I automatically connect with because I’m somewhat of a West Coast girl. I’m already excited to get into her protagonist’s frame of mind, having at least somewhat been that girl traveling from Seattle to Vancouver island and back again before. Paired with the comforts of a familiar setting, the author throws in an overly anxious protagonist whose witnessed a traumatising event. This trauma is shocking and reading about a character grappling with witnessing a suicide is shocking and instantly pulls you in. There’s a lot of dynamic things going on in terms of character and setting development. I know what journey she needs to go on right away.

Like a lot of books I’ve read lately concerning mental illness, the protagonist is attending therapy right from the start. I will always have tons of respect for this, because therapists are not the enemy and teenagers need to be told there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. With this in mind, this gives me strong All the Bright Places vibes. It’s got very similar subject matter. Maeve is obsessed with death like Finch was, and on top of that, extra paranoid. She’s a sympathetic wreck and I feel for her.

Another little touch I appreciate is the chapter relates to a different way to die as Maeve does her obsessive research. I love these types of hooks because it makes me wanna know what the next chapter’s focus is. So many things in this novel’s opener just crooks a come hither finger at you and you have no other choice but to read on…

I should also make a case for the fact that this features a wlw girl, something that wasn’t immediately obvious to me based purely on the opener. But I see so few queer plots featuring girls lately (without deliberately digging for it, which I don’t ordinarily do), we should be supporting these plots more often!

Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First

The first time I saw Bionic Man I was covered in sparkles.

Author: Susan Nielsen

Publisher: Tundra Books

Published: February 21, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: All the Bright Places, 10 Things I Can See From Here, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Would I select this for publication?:

I personally wouldn’t, simply because there’s too much going on. I don’t know where I’m supposed to look. There are far too many characters introduced right away and I can’t tell who I’m supposed to glom on to. Opening chapters should be reserved for the protagonist and because there’s so much going on here, I’m struggling to connect.

This opener also makes the mistake of describing what the protagonist is wearing, in detail, from the protagonist’s point of view. I hate this trope. There are better ways to describe characters’ appearances and I just happen to think a protagonist has more important things to do than talk about what everyone’s wearing.

It’s a shame, because I think the title is really great and what drew me in in the first place.

 

Bonus: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

a-tragic-kind-of-wonderful

My big brother, Nolan used to say everyone has a superpower. Not a skill you learned, but something you were born with.

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Publisher: Poppy (Hachette)

Published: February 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: All the Bright Places, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Mean Girls

You can read my full review of A Tragic Kind of Wonderful here!

 

What’s your favourite novel addressing mental illness?

 

Books, Sneak Peek Weekends

February Sneak Peek Weekends #2

This week’s sneak peek is another personal favourite theme of mine: murder most foul. Here are three of the latest YA releases featuring a couple murder mysteries…

A Good Idea

A Good Idea

I think it started with the seizure. Serena and I talked about it later, and she agreed that if Ann Russo hadn’t had an epileptic fit during the graduation ceremony, she would have been far less likely to contribute her own outburst to the proceedings. Something about the sight of Ann spasming on the ground, red hair gleaming against the aggressively green, meticulously manicured grass of the backfield, mouth opening and closing wordlessly like a fish, gave what had been until then an unnoteworthy ceremony  … a surreal quality that sent things firmly off the rails.

Author: Cristina Moracho

Publisher: Viking Children’s Books (Penguin Random House)

Published: February 28, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, Castle, All the Bright Places, Cuckoo’s Calling, Allegedly, Asking For It

If I were an agent/acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

Yes. When I go looking for thrillers with a hint of murder, I want ‘em gritty, brutal, and gory. I want to be shocked and horrified and A Good Idea succeeds from page one. A lot is going on in this first chapter, and it sets up so many intriguing questions. This opening scene takes place during a graduation ceremony (I would argue, a rarity in YA novels?), where a dead girl’s murderer is allowed to cross the stage while the victim goes completely unacknowledged. Meanwhile, another graduating student suffers a seizure. Right away, Moracho’s setting up a heavy message she wants to share. She gets to the point without messing around with irrelevant narrative developments. Her protagonist stands for justice for girls who are victimised while their predators go free without acknowledgement of their crimes or compromising their reputation. It’s a message to get angry about and makes you want to follow her down the rabbit hole to see where this goes. I like that we’re reaching an age where murder and violence in fiction isn’t just meant to shock. When done right, it’s to prove a point, and shed a light on the corruptions of society and the legal system. And I can clearly see that’s what Moracho’s doing here. She’s got a point to make.

To Catch a Killer

To Catch a Killer

 I soothe my forehead against the icy car window and breathe out a path of fog. If I squint one eye, the neon splashed across the rain-slicked street forms a wide, cruel mouth.

Author: Sheryl Scarborough

Publisher: Tor Teen (Macmillan)

Published:February 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Cuckoo’s Calling, Castle, Law and Order, NCIS

Would I Select it for Publication?

Given there are so many cop procedurals out there about murder cases, this one’s a little too cookie cutter for me. The title even sounds exactly like every other true crime program on tv right now. There is obviously a market for books like these, otherwise we wouldn’t have dozens and dozens of crime series out there. As far as crime novels go, you kind of have to start with a bang. There’s a reason why every crime show opens with the murder itself and backtracks. Instead, in this, Scarborough opens with a witness investigation. Which, in terms of the crime plot structure, isn’t necessarily the most interesting part of the murder mystery formula. (In my humble opinion.) Right away, I wanna know how did the person die, and who are they. All we know from this chapter is that it’s the protagonist’s teacher, and there was a lot of blood. Obviously, if you’re a die-hard mystery reader (which I’m not), and you like to have a quick, poolside read during your holidays, then maybe this is right up your alley. It’s just not quite up mine…

Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning

Nobody walks in Tulsa. At least not to get anywhere. Oil built our houses, paved our streets, and turned us from a cow town stop on the Frisco Railroad into the heart of Route 66. My ninth-grade Oklahoma History teacher joked that around these parts, walking is sacrilege. Real Tulsans drive.

Author: Jennifer Latham

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette)

Published:February 21, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Holes, The Help, Their Eyes Were Watching God, To Kill a Mockingbird, Allegedly

Would I Select it for Publication?

I don’t know about this one! This one’s got a slow build which doesn’t immediately grip you like it should. It gets there by the end of the first chapter, but it felt like I was going through the motions to get to that point. It does definitely feel, though, like Latham’s also got a point to make. Hers is one about race relations and slave-era America and how it’s impossible to erase that corrupt history, no matter how hard you try to clean the slate. There is clearly something to be said for erasure of victims, whether they’re women, like Moracho’s narrative, or black people, as Latham’s addressing. It’s incredibly topical now especially and I think it’s important to bring that discussion to teens as accessibly as possible. So while I don’t think this would be an immediately obvious choice for me as an agent, there is undoubtedly a place on the shelves for this novel and a reason it’s out there now. Sometimes that’s the burden agents and publishers face – the topics don’t always align with their categories of interest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be out in the world!

What are your favourite murder mysteries? Feel free to share in the comments!

Books, Sneak Peek Weekends

February Sneak Peek Weekends #1

This week’s collection of sneak peeks gives a nod to the latest trend in YA: fairy tale retellings. While I’ve complained about exhausted trends in fantasy in previous reviews, this one just doesn’t get old. Here are some amazing authors and their novels that continue to give fairytale retellings their great reputation!

Long May She Reign

long-may-she-reign

A hundred doves burst out of the pie.

Author: Rhiannon Thomas

Publisher: HarperTEEN

Published:February 21, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: The Sineater’s Daughter, The Lie Tree, Uprooted, Lunar Chronicles, Throne of Glass, Truthwitch, Caraval, The Night Circus, Pantomime

If I were an agent/acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

Yes.

This novel opens with doves flying out of a pie. Right away, you know the story is a fairytale nod, and therefore know exactly what you’re getting. I personally appreciate the reference to more obscure nursery rhyme aspect of fairytales, so I’m drawn in by the first paragraph.

Although the narrative is on the simpler side in terms of fairytale narratives, there’s a lot going on in the opening chapter. The immediate first impression of the protagonist suffers from a minor case of special snowflake, not like other girls syndrome, but Thomas reels it back in by making her logical and scientifically oriented. I for one, want more analytically minded female protagonists in my life!

Her best friend is introduced right away, on the other end of the personality spectrum from her. She’s more of a traditional female protagonist- she likes reading and more artistic pursuits. There’s a lot of polar opposite female friends in YA lately, particularly in terms of the delicate best friend and the bolder protagonist, but as long as there are female friendships in the books teenage girls are reading, it’s not necessarily a bad thing…

This opening chapter’s attention to detail also succeeds in giving a solid insight into royal dynamics in Thomas’ world. The descriptions are solid. I get the world we’re in, but in a really subtle way in that she’s not giving the whole game away with entire info dumps. It’s colourful, and frenetic, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s just her protagonist’s world, as she’s experiencing it, and that’s exactly what it should be.

The Wish Granter

the-wish-granter

Humans were pathetically predictable. Always longing for more. Always desperate to get their way. Shamelessly grasping for what remained out of reach, even when it cost them dearly. He despised them.

Author: CJ Redwine

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins Children’s)

Published: February 14, 2017

 This is a sequel to The Shadow Queen, but far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to follow the original characters, so I think it’s safe to say you could pick this one up as a standalone. (I wouldn’t ordinarily preview a sequel, but I thought this one would be safe enough…)

For Those Who Enjoyed: Once Upon a Time, Lord of the RIngs, Rebel of the Sands, Aladdin, Robin McKinley, A Darker Shade of Magic, Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Bloody Chamber

Would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

Yes.

It’s written in third person! This is shockingly rare for YA novels and I’m so relieved to pick up something not in first person for once! I need very little convincing on that front. The third person makes a huge difference in terms of writing style. It’s beautifully written and feels mystical, like a real fairytale. The place names, characters and spells are gorgeous in terms of linguistics, with some kind of Celtic, Welsh base. They’re very reminiscent of Tolkien.

It’s set in a fae kingdom, which usually squicks me out when done wrong, but these fae read more like the elves from Lord of the Rings than your fae of Throne of Glass.

This is based on Rumpelstiltskin, a fairytale not usually retold. Not since before Once Upon a Time, anyway.This is an exciting prospect! It’s not your run of the mill princess story. It’s different. I’m thrilled to see these fantasy writers looking outside of the box for their materials. I honestly don’t need one more Snow White or Cinderella.

Wintersong

wintersong

Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (Macmillan)

Published: February 7, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Robin McKinley, The Bone Witch, Labyrinth, Pan’s Labyrinth, Princess and the Goblin, Goblin Market, Grimm’s Fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, Uprooted

Would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

Yes. I loved this instantly from the first page. It gives off this magical vibe, like you’ve been transported into this mystical realm. It’s doing similar things in terms of building atmosphere as the previous two, yet it’s so much richer, if that’s possible. I instantly know the fairy tales she’s referencing and it’s very clear she’s well-read in her subject.This particular retelling is about the Goblin King, so again, this is another surprising side to the fairytale canon you don’t see redone a lot. Although it’s a little more obscure in terms of well-known fairy tales, there are so many stories she’s clearly drawing from. Jae-Jones is serving David Bowie in Labyrinth and Rosetti’s “Goblin Market” rolled into one and it’s beautiful. Any novel putting Victorian literature on a teenage reader’s map is doing aspirational things.

The Witch’s Kiss

witchs-kiss

Witches do not kneel. They do not grovel. They do not beg favours from any creature, mortal or immortal.

Author: Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Published: June 2016 (This was obviously published in the past year, but I’m previewing this one because its sequel, The Witch’s Tears, did come out this February.)

For Those Who Enjoyed: Once Upon a Time, Twilight, The Graces, RoseBlood, The Bone Witch

Would I select this for publication based on the opening chapter?:

No.

I’m not a fan of modern fairy tales. Or even modern protagonists being thrown into fairytales. It’s not terribly original and it’s not doing anything new with the genre as far as fairytale retellings go. The prologue is great. The aesthetics are strong and sets up a spooky atmosphere. And then chapter one brings you right back to a boring modern protagonist, having a really boring, typical teenage experience with her brother. The protagonist is paranoid, obsessed about a killer on the loose (which is a sketchy trope at best). That’s not what I want out of a fairytale. I need something new.

 

What are your favourite fairy tale retellings? Feel free to share in the comments!