Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.
This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.
This retelling focused more on Summer’s life before she runs from her stepmother, which I liked (for the most part). It tells the story of a young girl and her father dealing with the grief of her mother’s death, and the new stepmother who brings upheaval into her life. But I had problems with its characters and pacing, though Yolen’s writing is really good in that it conveys the atmosphere very well.
Summer is a kind and obedient girl, observing her world and noticing the small things around her. The characters aren’t so fleshed out: kind main character, loving but distant father, evil stepmother, and a small town full of gossipy people. The usual. However, the evil stepmother is more fleshed out compared to her Disney version. In this book, readers get a glimpse of how she fell into the Craft (as it’s called in the book), as well as her dark and twisted manipulative mind.
Another thing that I didn’t like was the pacing. There is a lot of setup with Summer, her family, her life in Addison, the hard times that she has with her Stepmother. The climax and ending just seems to happen so fast! Like I blinked and BAM conflict and BABOW resolution. @_@ Ugh.
But you know what I did like? Yolen’s writing. She manages to convey the different scenes in the book so well: Summer’s sadness and breaking spirit under her stepmother’s abuse, the dark and creepy nature of stepmother’s magic. There’s a great scene where things are frantic and confusing around Summer, building to a terrifying crescendo and it works SO WELL with Yolen’s writing.
Overall: While the writing style was very atmospheric and vivid, and I liked how the book tries to flesh out Summer’s story, it just wasn’t enough for me. The pacing was slow in the beginning, but almost too fast at the end. Still, pick it up if you’re in the mood for a Snow White retelling that isn’t really long.