Author: Jackson Pearce
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Fairytale Retellings (Book 2)
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 310 Pages
ISBN-10: 0316068659 (Little, Brown/Hachette)
ISBN-13: 978-0316068659 (Little, Brown/Hachette)
Reviewed by: Michelle
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.
Quick & Dirty: Sugar and spice, death and lies make up this retelling of Hansel and Gretel
Opening Sentence: The book said there was a witch in the woods.
Sweetly, the second book of the Fairytale Retellings series, Jackson Pearce tells her version of Hansel and Gretel. Like true Pearce fashion, she puts a twist in the story, truly making it her own in every way possible. And with the Fairytale Retellings series, I have to talk about the cover. The cover is eerily gorgeous, filled with branches twisting out to show you a not-so-hidden picture of a smirking face. It’s amazing and I instantly saw how far Pearce was going to go with the dark and scary.
Twelve years ago, a witch haunted the woods. Twelve years ago, Gretchen lost her twin and Ansel lost her sister, and a pair of yellow eyes changed their lives forever. As a result of the witch in the woods, Gretchen and Ansel’s family fell apart. Mourning and sadness left them to relocate to South Carolina. What seemed like a simple and quiet town, Live Oak, South Carolina had its own share of secrets and tragedy. Willing to start over Gretchen and Ansel found themselves on the doorsteps of Sophia Kelley, a candy maker all alone in the woods. Willing to forget their past, Ansel and Gretchen vow to start over. But once again, there is something dangerous lurking in the woods, one that has been affecting the small town for years now. Gretchen is determined to forget her past and fight back. But once she finds out what is going on, it might be too late.
Gretchen wasn’t someone that I instantly warmed up to. I automatically compared her to Scarlett from Sisters Red, and unfairly so. Losing a twin is tragic, not something that I could ever imagine, but I felt that Gretchen was stuck in the past. Gretchen struggles with why her sister was taken and why she was spared, waiting for the witch to catch up to her and take her as well. Despite where Gretchen is, she feels that the witch is waiting around the corner to take her as well. There is a turning point, when Gretchen finds her strength. She finally stands up for herself and takes the proper actions in protecting herself. This is the Gretchen that I love.
Pearce makes Ansel a supporting character, and I thought that was smart. It is clear that Gretchen is the main character, and that clearly sets it apart from any fairytale that Sweetly is based on. Ansel wasn’t someone that I really got to know, aside from the fact that Gretchen depended on him. I actually loved Sophia more. Sophia was full of secrets, having two different personalities. As a reader, I already saw the writing on the wall, but couldn’t wait to see how it would unfold. I was always at the edge of my seat trying to find out what would happen with Sophia and why she would do it. I loved the suspense!
In true Pearce fashion, the world of Sweetly was amazing. Each detail added to the depth of darkness that Pearce took it to. What should be a sweet fairytale was the exact opposite, showcasing the dark and evil lurkings behind closed doors. It made for a fantastic read filled with many surprises. There is a poetic justice about Pearce’s writing that had me engaged at all times. Even if I didn’t particularly like the character, their actions, or the specific scene, I always found myself wanting to read another word, another page, or another chapter. But isn’t that the workings of a great author? And the ending! Well, I can’t really talk about my favorite scenes, for it will spoil some surprises, but just trust me on this, Sweetly is worth the read!
My dreams are mostly nightmares—the witch charging, transforming into a hundred thousand werewolves. Then Samuel, stepping out of the darkness, followed by my father. But neither raises a hand to help me as the werewolves close in, and Ansel is nowhere to be found. At the very last moment my sister arrives with a rifle in hand, a shadow of a girl who steps out of my body and looks just like me; the werewolf turns and runs when it sees her. The dream repeats itself—I wake up at the end, then drift back to uneasy sleep only to dream it again.
Maybe Ansel’s lack of presence in the dream is why I don’t tell him about the witch the following morning—or maybe it’s because claiming to be chased by a werewolf is as unbelievable as claiming to be chased by a witch. My brother is in the storefront messing around with some of the shelving; our eyes meet very briefly.
I should tell him.
Fairytale Retellings Series:
1. Sisters Red
4. Cold Spell (TBA 2013)
FTC Advisory: I purchased this copy of Sweetly. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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