Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2011

Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.

Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.

Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I am a huge fan of fairy tale retellings if they are done right.  Example: Disney- not done right; Jackson Pearce- done perfectly.  To be "done right" a fairy tale retelling needs to capture the feelings the original author was trying to evoke and get the same type of reaction out of the reader, while keeping to the main elements and message.  Disney changes stories to the extreme that the point is lost.  Yeah, I get that they are catering to children and "happily ever after" sells better, but I still get mad.  Jackson Pearce breathes new life into the cautionary fairy tales of old; modernizing them to fit into today's world.  I really enjoyed the first book in her Fairytale Retellings Series, Sisters Red, but I LOVED Sweetly.  I feel like Sisters Red was a warm-up, and Sweetly is "game on".

I was hooked from the Prologue, and who wouldn't be?  Ansel, Gretchen, and her twin sister being chased by a witch in the forest, with only Ansel and Gretchen making it out?  Yikes! You would think it would lull after that, but it doesn't...  Chapter one begins 12 years later, with Ansel and Gretchen beginning their road trip to the coast and a better life, after basically being booted by their stepmother. They didn't have much-no real plan, not much money, but they had each other and they had hope... Then their car breaks down in a small, rather strange town.  Not having anywhere else to go, Ansel takes some handyman work and a place to stay from a young chocolatier named Sophia, and the story really begins.  There's something not quite right about the town, the people who live there, candy shop, or Sophia herself.

This story is told in a way that keeps you guessing at what will happen next and how certain characters and their experiences tie in.  There is a great deal of mystery on many levels, and nothing is what you think it will be.  This book moves along at a great pace with the revelations spaced really well.  I never felt over or underwhelmed with new developments.  As far a the descriptive element was concerned, I was impressed; it was awesome.  Honestly, I could practically taste the sweets mentioned in this book and could feel the surroundings- the creepy forest, the quaint house, the desperate town- while reading about them. 

My favorite part of this book, though, were the characters.  They are so human, and as we all know, there is some monster in every human being.  How much of that monster is on the surface is the real question.  In this book you forge such a connection to the characters that in the end it is difficult to decide who is right and who is wrong, because it is so not black and white.  Scratch that.  It's not necessarily difficult to decide; the actions of some characters are definitely wrong, but you have to wonder if you wouldn't have done the same in their shoes... One of my favorite characters was Samuel, just as his brother Silas was one of my favorites in Sisters Red.  I love that the Reynolds siblings will be represented in each book; Jackson says the Reynolds triplet girls will be the subjects of her next Fairytale Retelling, Fathomless, a retelling of The Little Mermaid (releases in August of 2012).

Overall, I think this is Jackson's best book yet.  It may have been her hardest to write so far, but I think it paid off.  This book will be difficult to top, but I have no doubt she'll be able to do it with Fathomless.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is pretty clean.  There is violence and some romance, but all in all, quite benign.  My 5th grader has read it.  Ages 11 and up (5th-6th grade +).

**Don't forget to enter my AWESOME giveaway of an audio copy of the AMAZING All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin HERE!**


  1. I haven't read SWEETLY yet, but hope to do so soon. And I can't WAIT for FATHOMLESS!!

  2. I haven't read this one yet, but it's nice to know it's good! I thought Sisters Red did a great job of bringing new originality to an old fairy-tale so that you couldn't predict what was going to happen, but it still stayed true to the themes of older versions of the story. Sounds like Sweetly does a good job of this as well.


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