kill me softly

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 |
I learned an important lesson this week.  Friends may know you better than the internet ever could.  Particularly, real life book club friends have a better handle on the sort of story you’ll enjoy (or even simply find interesting) than a blog.  I know that seems like an obvious conclusion, but I often trust blog advice above all else for book recommendations.  And if I had listened in this case, I would have missed an interesting book – not to mention the chance to discuss young adult fantasy (in person!) with a very smart friend.

kill me softly by sarah cross book cover
Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own... brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

Beau Rivage is a town on the shore where fairy tales (and those cursed by them) congregate.  It’s a place where mothers disappear, fates manifest, and dangerous destinies await – and it is the town of Mira’s birth.  She’s been kept away from it by her godmothers for years, but now, just before her birthday, she can’t take the mystery and loneliness and she makes good her escape.  Once in Beau Rivage, Mira finds that it isn’t all she dreamed: it’s complicated and risky to be on her own. There’s also suddenly a lot of unfinished business (and romance?) waiting right around the corner.  Mira will need to adjust fast, or face lethal consequences.

Doesn’t the description for Sarah Cross’ Kill Me Softly sound a bit like a teaser for the show Once Upon a Time?  It’s very fairy tale/doom is waiting.  The cover art is perfectly lovely, but it doesn’t strike me as menacing.  And that IS one thing this book does exceedingly well (a menacing tone, I mean).  It also has a FABULOUS concept.  Bluebeard boy and Sleeping Beauty girl = tragic and fascinating.  That isn’t to say the result is perfectly executed (it’s not), but it’s certainly enough to keep you reading.

As a character, Mira almost treads into infuriatingly naïve territory, but her motivations and conflict are well done and her choices understandable (if stupid).  She’s a sheltered teen who has chosen to throw herself into a crazy situation, and the story reflects that.  Of course this is also fantasy, so the reader must make allowances.  The world around Mira is fairly well drawn, though the reading experience is hampered somewhat by the slow reveal of facts and the inclusion of a couple of characters who remain off page and yet are given extensive back stories.

The romance/involvement aspect is tame-ish, and there are hints of cliché that may annoy some readers.  My favorite characters were Blue and Freddie, who have a funny good cop/bad cop dynamic to start and believable teenage boy dialogue.   If you can get far enough into the book to hit Beau Rivage and Blue, I think you’ll be sucked in.  From then on it’s all manipulation and secrets and must-find-out-how-this-ends, though you may have a clue (I did). But the concept!  The concept was the thing that kept me reading this book. 

When it seems like tragedy is the only possible ending to a story, it usually is, and that may be why this tied-with-a-bow ending felt like a bit of a cheat.  There’s no way there’s a ‘waltz off with all the money in the vault’ ending in Mira’s future.  BUT.  Kill Me Softly is a solid take on fairy tales, and it manages creepy and complicated in spots.  I’ll be looking for more nightmares and dreams set in Beau Rivage.

Recommended for: those who like YA fairy tale retellings and fantasy.

1 comment:

Liviania said...

You don't find dripping blood menacing?

But this one has been on my wishlist awhile. I know it got a few bad reviews, but I love fairytales. And hey, I trust your blog a lot.

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