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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

One of my favorite genres of fiction is the “retold fairy tale.” Sarah Beth Durst’s debut novel, Into the Wild is retold fairy tale, coming-of-age novel, and dark fantasy all in one. Once upon a time there was a girl named Julie Marchen… Haven’t heard that one before? Julie’s the daughter of Zel, better known as Rapunzel. You know her, right? Golden hair, lives in a tower? Yes, that Rapunzel.

Julie, daughter of Rapunzel, lives with her mother and adopted brother Puss in Boots. She, like most teenagers thinks her family is strange and craves normalcy. She’s right to some extent. Afterall, not every girl has “The Wild” currently habitating underneath her bed bewitching shoes and whatever sundries it manages to ensnare. But there’s one thing missing in Julie’s quest for a normal life. Her father. She’s never known him, and her mother’s never volunteered any information.

All Julie’s aware of is The Wild once held all the fairy tales in existence, and somehow characters escaped it one day, and now try to live low-key. Julie’s grandmother, once a witch, now runs a local hotel The Wishing Well, and guards the Well from all those who seek it.

However, one day, The Wild escapes and re-captures all the fairy tales within it. Inside, they’re forced to re-enact their stories repeatedly. Rapunzel is once again locked in the tower, Goldilocks is sleeping in the Three Bears’ bed, and Julie’s grandmother is an evil witch hungry for children. What’s worse is as The Wild grows, it draws the townspeople, including Julie’s friend and classmates, into its dark wood, situating them within tales.

Julie decides to venture into The Wild and rescue her mother. Along the way, she discovers the story behind the “great escape,” a Rapunzel she never knew, and the courage to save the prisoners of The Wild, even if it means relinquishing the idea of a “perfect life.”

Durst’s Julie, who draws upon her knowledge of fairy tales to navigate the treacherous wood, is an easily relatable character. She has the typical teen worries, like having the right clothes and if she appears “in” to her classmates.

The author blends a variety of genres, and fairy tales in a intricate and engaging read. She employs some of the staples of fairy tales, as well as the lesser known, such as Grimm’s “Six Swans,” and follows the traditional themes of the stories, and not the colorful and whimsical versions with which we’re all familiar. The novel, though entrenched in fantasy, offers up some very real messages and themes, and is so enjoyable, you’ll hope the “ever after” never comes.

Review copy provided by the author

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