Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review: Briar Rose

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Pages: 239, paperback

ISBN: 9780765342300

Publisher: Tor Teen

Date Released: March 15th, 2002 (first published 1989)

Genre: YA / historical / speculative fiction / fairytale retelling

Source: library

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope. A Tor Teen edition of the modern classic by critically-acclaimed author Jane Yolen. (Taken from Goodreads).
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This book is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Like, very loose. A young woman must find out why her grandmother's life revolved around the tale of Sleeping Beauty, and her research takes her to Poland, where she finds the truth.

To start off with, the pacing of this story was really hard to follow. At times, it was easy to get into, and then it would abruptly change into something dull and tedious, and I'd feel compelled to skip past it. Until the second half of the book or so, when we get the perceptive of Josef. It seemed as if Yolen had added in those unnecessary tidbits to lengthen her already short novel.
The writing itself is nothing impressive, was sometimes slow and unclear. It distracted me from the story sometimes, which is obviously not a good thing. It only started to get better--more fast-paced and intriguing-- when it started following from the perspective of osef, instead of Becca.

That being said, the characters were quite flat and annoying, except for Gemma, when she was still alive. The dialogue of all the other characters was frustrating and made me groan. I really disliked Becca, she seemed like the worst, most boring protagonist ever. I couldn't understand her thoughts most of the time, which was incredibly annoying.
I found the romance between her and Stan to be non-existent. It was disappointing, slow and lacked that special something, that spark that made it work. It just seemed like some boring, awkward friendship between two very awkward people who didn't want a relationship. When they finally kissed at the end, I was bored and unimpressed, taking no interest in the event due to the very poor build up of their relationship.
The only character that I found to be tolerable was Josef, during the second half of the book. It was also the time that the story started picking up, when I finally found myself unable to put the book down. When Josef tells Becca and Magda his story and his survival in Poland during the war, and the story of Gemma, Becca's grandmother, it was touching, and really played on my emotions. It was then that I really started to care for this book and for the characters. That was one of the two things that redeemed this book for me.

The other redeeming quality was the story in itself. It is a really sweet Sleeping Beauty retelling. That, combined with the Holocaust made it a really strong and emotional story that really hit close to home. Both my parents are from Poland, so I know so many stories about the war. Holocaust stories are something very special to me, I just love them. Stories like Night by Elie Weisel and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak really make me emotionally attatched to them, simply because I understand them. I've had grandparents and uncles and parents and family friends tell me every memory of the war that they have.
So, that made it a really good book for me.

If the story hadn't have started so late in the book, then I would have given this novel a rating of 5. But alas, it doesn't get that.
I'd definitely recommend this story. Slow or not, it is a brilliant retelling.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 5
Characters: 3 (would have been 1 if not for Josef)
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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