Bewitching: The Kendra Chronicles, Book 2

 
(i)

 

Clever Cinderella twist picks brains over beauty.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Bewitching references different periods in history, like the plague of 1666 and the sinking of the Titanic, and introduces a few historical characters, like the son of Louis XV of France -- all included in a Historical Notes section. It also twists popular fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella. The main character, Emma, is a voracious reader of the classics, many mentioned by name, such as Vanity Fair and Candide, with plots discussed.

Positive messages

The big take-away here is that heroines don't have to be gorgeous, and the gorgeous aren't necessarily the heroines. And staying true to yourself and having self-confidence has its rewards. Kendra learns throughout her long life that her magic meddling to help others can backfire, no matter her good intentions; life is full of unforeseen possibilities more than happily-ever-afters.

Positive role models

Emma is often prone to self-doubt and goes on quite a bit about her jealousy, her weight, and her lack of beauty, but she has great realizations about herself, her appearance, her relationships, and her strengths. Her mom is a complicated character who's very critical of her daughter and insecure herself. She gives in to her evil stepmother role, but it's hard to blame her entirely. Kendra the witch always means well when she helps others and vows to herself never to use her power for evil.

Violence

The book opens with Kendra watching most of her family die of the plague in 1666; death is everywhere in her village. Then her brother is almost baked, Hansel and Gretel-style (plenty of other children were before him), and a witch is burned. A mermaid talks of watching many sailors die in shipwrecks. Kendra watches the Titanic sink, and survivors remember how many were lost. A woman commits suicide with a gas oven, and there's another death by heart attack. Lizette recalls how she lost her mother to cancer and that lack of money prevented her from getting care in time.

Sex

Kissing and groping, some in a teen's bedroom with some clothing removed.

Language

"Bastard," "hell," and "damn" used pretty sparsely.

Consumerism

Trips to Starbucks with drinks mentioned, plus iPod, Nordstroms, Bath and Body Works, and a few other name brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Emma takes a sip of a drink at an over-the-top high school party and escapes before the police arrive. Plus a mention of an adult drinking.

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.

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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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Alex Flinn
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Fairy tales
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperTeen
Publication date:February 14, 2012
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17

This review of Bewitching: The Kendra Chronicles, Book 2 was written by

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