Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mirror, Mirror

Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen

             A fourteen-year-old girl escapes her evil stepmother by running into the woods. She comes upon a cottage of seven dwarfs and lives with them. All is well, until one day an old woman with a basket of shiny red apples asks for Snow White’s help. And, being the naive but kind girl that she is, she helps her. To show her gratitude for Snow White’s help, the old woman gives Snow one of her apples.

 It turns out that the old women is her stepmother and the apple is poisoned. Snow White dies and the dwarfs mourn her death. They hold a ceremony in the woods with all the forest animals Snow had befriended. As she lays dead beneath a glass coffin the prince arrives. She had met him once before and they sang a duet but that was it.

Well, it must have been pretty spectacular duet because he is so grief-stricken he removes the glass lid and kisses her. A dead, fourteen–year-old girl. She miraculously wakes up and they ride off into the sunset.

Now, don’t get me wrong I love Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s such a cute movie and the animation is beautiful. But, when you look at the story-line so literally it seems kind of well…stupid. So, when a book entitled Snow in Summer caught my eye I picked it up to see what it was all about.

With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. 

Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.

This young adult fantasy novel has a hint of historical fiction as it is based during the early twentieth century (the 20’s I think) in Appalachia. I love fantasy novels and so I was eager to see how Snow White was portrayed in this re-telling. Jane Yolen’s portrayal of Snow didn’t make her out be a naive, stupid girl. She was smart, kind, and wanted the right thing to be done. She was respectful towards her stepmother even when her stepmother was nasty to her.

Her character was much more mature and realistic, as was the story. Her decisions were necessary and well thought through. The seven dwarfs were short men who came to America from Germany with their parents when they were kids. I really like this change in the story and enjoyed their German accents in the dialogue. They were each different but not stereotypical at all which made that part of the story so much better.

The stepmother is so well written. She wasn’t the vain woman filled with hatred for Snow that she is often portrayed as. She’s dark, cunning, deceitful, and manipulative. You don’t really realize what she is doing until a good ways through the book which was refreshing. I actually liked her character a lot.  Not because she was a great step mother (because she's not) but because she broke through the stereotypical evil stepmother persona.

This book made the story of a fourteen-year-old girl who goes to live with seven men into a realistic story of a young girl, who has everything ripped away from her and is trying to uncover the evidence of her misery.

Language: None

Alcohol/drugs: Summer is offered beer in one scene but refuses

Violence: 1.5

Sexual Content: None

Spiritual Content: Summer’s aunt goes to a Baptist church and her step-mother takes her to a church where they practice snake handling as a religious ritual taking Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:9 literally. Snow can tell something is wrong with the people there and does not agree with their rituals but her step-mother makes her go.

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