Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

I had heard that "Fairest" was basically the re-telling of Snow White by Gail Carson Levine. For me, it took about 65 pages to grasp this enchanted world that Levine created.
What was so unexpected to me was that the main character, Aza, was deemed 'ugly' and thought herself so as well almost to a fault. Aza is young and immature so I was able to look past her hauntingly mundane self-talk of how "ugly" she felt she was. I still struggled to image a type of Snow White being ugly though. Aza has other qualities than just her outside looks like being able to sing with the voice of angel and being kind and helpful to those around her. She is also able to get along with gnomes and even lives among them for time which most people, like the prince Ijori in the book, just cannot tolerate.
My favorite characters in the book ended up being zahM, who is a gnome, Prince Ijori who deserves a 'Klondike bar' for loving Aza just as she was, and I loved to hate Queen Ivi. I love that Levine made the mirror into an interesting character as well.
All of this weaves into this thought-provoking story of beauty very nicely and I liked the way Levine ties up all of the loose ends after all. It was a simple, predictable read yet I found it quite enjoyable. As a friend of mine put it: "This book is simple in words but deep in meaning."
*This book counts toward my 2008 reviews.


Amanda said...

Is this your first Levine book Julie?

Julie said...

It has been quite a while since I've read Levine but I'm familiar with Ella Enchanted and The Wish by Gail Carson Levine. I read them in '04 or '05 so it's a bit vague now but I remember wanting to read Ella Enchanted before I ever saw the movie and remember being glad that I did.

L said...

I haven't read any of Levine's books, but this looks like a good one. I like quirky takes on old fairy tales.

Byron said...

So apparently Levine is doing this "new take on a classic fairy tale thing" as a common theme in her books. I wonder how many others like this she's written.

Ella Enchanted was very enjoyable, and I assume this one would be as well. I'll keep an eye out for it.

But tell me, does anyone else ever feel a little weird while browsing in a YA section of a bookstore/library? Like all these parents are keeping an unusually keen eye on you? It's a shame that some of the noblest (gotta build teenager self-esteem) and most creative books are considered juvenile, and that I should have to feel out of place being interested in them as an adult. Is it a form of discrimination? Or am I being paranoid yet again? Any thoughts on this?

Amanda said...

I do, especially at the library. At the bookstore I shop at, the YA section is right next to the kids section, and I have the kids with me, so it's easy to pretend we're looking for stuff for them, but recently I went and picked out a book for myself at B&N and it was a little embarrassing. Add to that going to a teen book club and being the only member thus far besides the librarian...and it didn't help that we were meeting in the quiet room of our library, and the people in there on laptops didn't want to leave the room, so there we were discussing YA books in front of all these people...yeah. It's too bad, though, because I think in general YA lit really has something going for it, especially when it's not just written to be a moral compass. I'm not into books that only try to teach kids lessons, you know?

Byron said...

Haha, sometimes it's hard to be a nerd, even as adults. Though infinitely easier than in high school, you know?

All those poseurs with their laptops, too pathetic. Go get your own wi-fi! I mean, really, laptops are going to ultimately replace books, so why should we share space with the enemy like that? It seems like it's all about image, that's why it annoys me so much. Or is it because I haven't bought one yet?

Anyway, since parents, schools, and religions aren't getting the values across, I guess authors think that somehow their voice will be the one that shares an important lesson. They're doomed to fail too, though, because we all know we get our morals from parents and friends as children, and then from Hollywood and pop stars as teenagers, where our values are warped until gradually in adulthood some people start becoming mature and responsible and straighten up a bit. Looks like there's nowhere for an author to influence, except maybe infancy or late adulthood (good luck).

Funny thing, though, if you want preachy, watch some of our 80's cartoons and see what was fed down our throats. It's not Spongebob, it's dogma.

Amanda said...

I'm thinking back to the Rudolph movie we watch every Christmas, that has lines such as "They were all very sad about their friend, but they knew the best thing to do was to get the women back to Christmastown." Yeah. That was 60s not 80s of course, but I'm sure the same things were there.

I'm reading a nonfiction book about the rise of the Harry Potter series, written by the woman who runs the Leaky Cauldron website, and she talks about the children's and YA market pre-Harry Potter. About how except for a few authors, such as R.L.Stine and Philip Pullman (yes, I know, big spread there, but go with me), for at least a decade, there were very few children's books that were written just to be fun to read. Most were written to give a moral, or to "help" (since when is a teen helped by a book TRYING to help?), and kids found them boring. They were more for parents than for kids. The children's book industry had flagged bigtime. And it's pretty sad to know that throughout the 90s, the biggest money maker in children's books was Goosebumps. I have to admit, I read some of those myself...