DrMM's blog about books, the universe and everything (actually, just books). I currently read mostly YA/MG fantasy, although the only thing I won't read is horror.
When I heard Shannon Hale had a new book out, I bought it having absolutely no clue that it was part of the Ever After High universe created by Mattel. If I had, at least I wouldn't be as disappointed by this book as I am. I suppose I expect more complexity from a Shannon Hale book than I ended up getting.
Mini-Summary: Ever After High is a boarding school for the children of fairy tale characters. Raven Queen's destiny is to give a poisoned apple to Apple White, the daughter of Snow White. Unfortunately for Raven, she wants to be nice to people, is lousy at evil magic and doesn't hate Apple White nearly enough to want to poison her. As her year progresses, Raven must decide whether to sign the Book of Legends that will ensure she follows her destiny or choose her own, very risky path.
First complaints first: I hate, loathe and despise the interior decoration theme of this book. Every page has a large and garish pink and purple border that is insanely distracting. Even worse, there are text messages between characters written in pink and purple. There are also conversations between the narrator of the story and Maddie Hatter and THOSE conversations are black and purple. Ugh. After reading the story, I realize it's written for younger girls but I happen to think that the pink and purple theme is incredibly sexist. If I'd opened this in a bookstore, I would never have touched it. Never.
The Positive: I have to admit that I love retold fairy tales, so this did manage to be a quick, entertaining read. And, you know, a story about fighting destiny is almost always compelling. I was also relieved that even though Apple White is beautiful and beloved and fits the book mold of a spoiled brat quite well, she was never purposely cruel and nasty. Clueless, yes, because she can't grasp what it's like for someone to have a less than happy destiny, but she wasn't a mean person.
I loved the character of Maddie Hatter. Every scene with her in it was entertaining on many levels and the idea of Wonderland having a language called Riddlish makes me smile.
The Negative: This book may have been a fun, quick read but part of that is because there is so little depth to the characters or the plot. Raven is the only character we know much about and I still don't feel connected to her. All of the others are just ... decoration. Even though Maddie is a fun character to read, we really know very little about her.
And as for other annoyances, I really didn't like that Maddie could converse with the narrator. Every time it happened, I disconnected from the story and characters. Since I wasn't very connected to them to begin with, this made it worse. Plus, it was such a deus ex machina. Maddie needs to know something? Let's have her talk to the narrator!
However, I think the biggest reason why I'm dissapointed in this book is because in August I read two books with a very similar plot that is vastly superior to Ever After High. These books are called Storybound and Story's End by Marissa Burt. In Storybound, a girl named Una Fairchild is transported to the Land of Story, where children go to school to learn to be villains, heroes or ladies from already existing stories. Meanwhile, there's a secret rebellion featuring characters who want to be able to create their own stories. These books have a much more complex plot and the characters are much more two-dimensional than in Ever After High. In comparison, Ever After High seems so ... shallow. Yes, they're aimed at a slightly older age group -- but not by much.
Final Verdict: Cute but not particularly unique. I'll read the rest out of curiosity and the hope that it will gain depth as the story continues but this series is nowhere near the quality of Hale's other books. I hate being so negative about it since I love every other book I've read of Shannon Hale's ... I just can't love this one.
Disclaimer: For the record, I'm a 35 year-old former English major. As a result, I'm quite sure my perspective on these books are going to be different from that of a 7 or 8 year-old girl. While I have no intention of giving this book to either of my nieces since I see a certain sexism inherent in the concept of Ever After High, I have no doubt that this is a book that a ton of 7 or 8 year old girls will love.