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The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold

November 8, 2010

The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold

By Francesca Lia Block

Published 2001

Synopsis:

A collection of nine different stories loosely based on classic fairy tales but set in modern day.

Review:

One of my favorite kinds of stories is the re-imaginings of old fairy tales.  The master of fairytale retellings, in my opinion, is Gail Carson Levine. In a way, I’m such a huge Levine fan that I don’t think Francesca Lia Block’s book stood a chance right from the start.  I was hoping for more of the same unique, empowering, totally delightful perspective I found in Levine’s Princess Tales.  But with that style firmly implanted in my brain’s “LOVE IT” section, I could never quite fall for Block’s book because the two styles are so extremely different. 

Here’s what I liked about this book: The rhythmic writing; it was told almost in free verse.  The stories were told in the same way that a beatnik would tell them on a dark stage in a small theater while smoking a cigarette and wearing a black tunic.  I also liked the daring—Block touched on much deeper emotion and passion than any of Levine’s books.  She is not afraid to address abuse and addiction in a very personal way.

Here’s what I didn’t like: It was at times a little too graphic for my taste; but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t appeal to a lot of young adults.  It’s just not my personal preference.  I don’t care for the gritty L.A. underworld setting, with reference to drug use by young kids in such a way that makes it sound like an understandably necessary part of life if you are a victim of abuse.  I don’t think all victims of abuse must inevitably become drug addicts and prostitutes.  But, again, this is a world that I can’t fairly comment on since I’m neither a victim of abuse nor a teenager living in L.A.

There is no denying that the writing was high quality; it’s just the subject matter that I wasn’t crazy about.

Recommendations:

Ages 14 and up; pre-teens should not be reading this. There are intimate, graphic descriptions of adult matters and an overall theme of confusing feelings of sexual attractions.  I can’t see myself saying to a teen, “hey, you should really read these retold fairy tales that depict heroines as teenagers struggling to cope with abuse, sex, fantasies, drug addiction, and harsh realities…”

Rating:

2 ½ boots.  Just because it’s not my idea of a great book to curl up with doesn’t mean I don’t think teens would enjoy this.  I do think Block is extremely gifted with language and writing style.  A friend once highly recommended Block’s first book Weetzie Bat to me and even though I didn’t love The Rose and the Beast, I’m still very open to reading more by this author, if only to enjoy more of that unique lyrical style she has.

From → Book Treks

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