A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this semi-follow-up to Beastly mixes fantasy romance and fun with some lessons, helping girls think about what a heroine really is. There are references to other periods in history (such as the 1666 plague and the sinking of the Titanic, where you'll find most of the book's violence) and a few fairy tales mixed in to a main story about stepsisters. Lizette's mother dies of cancer, and she moves in with her estranged father, Emma, and Emma's mother. There's another sad death in the main story, drinking at a wild teen party (Emma takes a sip of something and leaves), and some kissing and groping.
What's the story?
Kendra realizes she's a witch in 1666 after she saves her brother from the plague in an emotional fit of chanting. She escapes the sickened village, only to run into a rather familiar-sounding witch who bakes children who try to eat her gingerbread house. Kendra convinces the witch to teach her what she knows but vows to herself never to use her own powers with evil intent. Still, she recalls vividly how her best intentions to help others throughout history have backfired. That leads to the story of Emma and Lizette, modern-day stepsisters whom Kendra watches carefully. Lizette may be the pretty, pitied Cinderella figure on the surface, but it's her jealous conniving that turns the plainer Emma's life horribly upside down. Will Kendra step in to put things right? Or will her best intentions backfire again?
Is it any good?
The beauty of this not-quite fairy tale lies in its surprisingly complex characters. Readers will want to hate Emma's mom, but wait -- Emma still loves her, and she does mean well sometimes. They'll hate Lizette, naturally, but pity her, too, when her stepmom hits her stride. Emma is the natural heroine, though she's also guilty of letting her mother mistreat Lizette. Complicated. Then there's Kendra, a self-professed good witch who doesn't always get it right. It all gives the story the complexity it needs to stay intriguing. The love story twist is the icing on the cake.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about your expectations of a Cinderella-type story vs. what really happened. Were you surprised that you were supposed to root for Emma? Did you almost feel for Emma's mom, despite her bad behavior?
What makes a good heroine? Who are your favorites? Why?
What makes a good fairy tale? The characters are usually less complex than the ones you find in this book. Why do you think that is?
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