Friday, 19 April 2013

Sweetly - Jackson Pearce

Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings, #2)
Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings #2) - Jackson Pearce
Grade: YA
Rating: 5/5 stars

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry. (Description from Goodreads)

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Jackson Pearce has captivated me again with her fabulous fairytale retellings! I love that she seems to pick the less obvious tales - not that people have never heard of Hansel and Gretel (or Little Red Riding Hood) - but they're not the first ones people draw from. Sweetly is exactly the sort of story I adore.

For brother and sister, Gretchen and Ansel, life has always been about living in the shadow of tragedy. After losing Gretchen's twin sister in the woods by their house while they were just little kids, nothing in life has seemed stable. When their stepmother throws them out when she's no longer legally required to look after them, it becomes just another twist in their existence...until they stumble upon the little town of Live Oak and their world is turned upside-down. I loved how the beginning was set out, there was the obvious 'witch' talks and a modernised "bread crumb" trail of lollies and a desperate need to stick together - as all Gretchen and Ansel had were each other.

I thought Gretchen was a really nice main character. While she was a tad timid at first, used to hiding from her past, she grew into herself so much. As someone who has always sort of believed in the supernatural, she accepts the twists and turns she comes across almost too well - but it is fiction and it didn't bother me much. I loved that she adopts a take-charge attitude as the story continues. She discovers there's a mystery in Live Oak where teenage girls are going missing each year and Gretchen decides she doesn't want to just sit back and watch it happen again - she doesn't want to be one of the missing. I love the change you see in her.

I know you're all wondering: So where's the witch with the gingerbread house, liquorice windows and chocolate doors? Well she certainly turns up, but not quite in the way I expected. We meet Sophia Kelly soon after Gretchen and Ansel arrive in Live Oak. Sophia's a mysterious young lady who runs a chocolatier out of her house, but it's obvious she's keeping secrets from the rest of the world. Flitting between emotions and desperate to host a chocolate festival for the young girls of Live Oak, Sophia confuses you from start to finish. I'll admit I had no idea what to feel when it came to Sophia. I was convinced she was the evil witch one minute, and worried I was judging her too harshly the next; like I was trying to force her into the role of the witch because I knew the story of Hansel and Gretel demanded the witch with the lollies would be the enemy. I liked that this storyline was unpredictable that way. In Sisters Red there were obvious plot twists that jumped out at me from the start, and while I did pick some of the direction for Sweetly, Sophia remained a mystery to me the whole book.

One of my favourite parts of reading Sweetly was seeing the connections to Sisters Red. We haven't left the Fenris (werewolves) behind, they're still there, still attacking girls and still causing a lot more trouble than you'd like. And even better, there's even a Reynolds boy on the scene: Samuel Reynolds. No actual mention of Silas or Papa Reynolds, but when he says he comes from a family of woodcutters and hunters you're pretty sure he's part of the same bunch. I loved it! Samuel is an incredible love interest (because you know that's what he'll end up being instantly) He doesn't fall immediately in love and he doesn't spend every waking moment trying to convince Gretchen she should stay in the pretty-girl world and let the man look after her. There is no one man who saves the day, this is definitely a Girl-Power book - but with a nice supporting role for Samuel. He was written in a way that let Gretchen shine while he stands by her in everything she does. It was perfect.

I really loved this book and I'm desperate to get my hands on the next one: Fathomless (and not only because it's a Little Mermaid retelling - my favourite fairytale)

5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)


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