Trending Topics in YA: Fairytale Retellings

As I’m sure most of you have noticed, fairytale retellings are hugely popular lately! I can’t even tell you how many books I’ve looked at in the past week alone that have been a retelling of a story I used to read as a child. What is the reason for the spike in retellings? I would say nostalgia plays a role–it’s nice to read something that we loved as children and brings back all of the memories and feelings that we had when our parents read us bedtime stories. Also, I think it’s really interesting to see the different spin that authors put on familiar stories and it revives a story that has grown old and somewhat boring.

I think the key to a good retelling is definitely the originality that an author can bring. For instance, Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer are retellings of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, respectively, yet the stories are completely different and original. While keeping some of the familiar aspects of the story, such as Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters or Little Red’s famous red cloak, each book offers an entirely new take on the fairytale and Meyer incorporates dystopian, steampunk, and scifi elements as well. Splintered by A.G. Howard, while not one of my favorites, also offered a new perspective on a familiar tale–Alice in Wonderland. It presents a much different version of Wonderland than either Lewis Carroll or Disney gave us, and its originality is what makes the story stand out.

Other fairytale retellings include Kill Me Softly, a book by Sarah Cross that has multiple fairytale retellings in one, Entwined by Heather Dixon, which is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Beastly by Alex Flinn, which retells the story of Beauty and the Beast.

What fairytale retellings have you read recently? Which retelling would you like to see written? I personally, would love a retelling of The Little Mermaid, which was my favorite as a child.

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Splintered by A. G. Howard

Splintered by A. G. Howard“No one knows what he or she is capable of until things are at their darkest.”

Alyssa Gardner is able to talk to insects and plants, a curse that stems from her ancestor Alice Liddell, the girl who was Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa’s mother has the same curse, and has been living in a mental hospital for years. As her mother’s condition worsens, Alyssa realizes that the only way to break the curse is to find a way into Wonderland, if it actually exists. What she finds is a much different Wonderland than Lewis Carroll wrote. She must pass a series of tests that will allow her to fix Alice Liddell’s mistakes before she is allowed to leave Wonderland and return home. She also has to decide between trusting her friend Jeb, who she has been secretly crushing on for years, or the mysterious Morpheus, who seems to be hiding something.

I’m not going to lie–ninety percent of the reason I picked up this book was because of the gorgeous cover. I’m usually not one to judge a book by its cover, but this cover really drew me in! I also really love retellings, so I was very excited to read this. Honestly though, I was a little bit disappointed.

I was never hugely into Alice in Wonderland, and I’ve actually never read Lewis Carroll’s book. Splintered presents a much different Wonderland than the Disney version, which is pretty much where my limited knowledge of the story comes from. A lot of this book is super creepy. I’m not usually one to shy away from a creepy book, but some of the stuff was a bit out there for me. For example, Alyssa’s favorite past time is murdering insects and using their dead bodies to create “art”. Now, I know there are many different forms of art, but while some may view this as artistic, I was just plain grossed out. And also–how cruel! I’m no fan of bugs, but killing them for art is really unnecessary.

Alyssa herself was pretty uninteresting and she tries too hard to present a certain image of herself that seems to cater to her crush’s interests. I also didn’t like either of the male characters in the story. Alyssa’s friend Jeb is a jerk–he leads her on by flirting with her all the time but meanwhile is dating her high school rival, a girl who cruelly teases Alyssa and throws her relationship with Jeb in her face. Morpheus, Alyssa’s guide in Wonderland, is just super creepy. He has insect wings, is extremely manipulative, and weirdly possessive of Alyssa.  Also, the love triangle is focused on way too much and takes away from the rest of the story.

While the world building of this very dark version of Wonderland was really well done, the rest of the story seemed really dragged out. The tasks that Alyssa has to complete in order to reverse Alice Liddell’s mistakes were really interesting but made the story seem tedious after awhile. I feel like it took me forever to get through this book, and it was one of those times that I was eager to reach the end just for the sake of the story being over. The ending really disappointed me also because while it was definitely not something I had expected, I was still left feeling like the story had gone nowhere.

Overall, Splintered presented a much darker version of the traditional Wonderland and while the world building was excellent, the love story took too much of the focus and the characters were not very likable. This is one of those books where I feel like the idea had a lot of potential but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Splintered was released on January 1, 2013 and is the first book in the Splintered series. The second book, Unhinged, is set to be released on January 7, 2014.