Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tahleen review: "Fractured" by Joanna Karaplis


TitleFractured: Happily Never After? 3 Tales
Author: Joanna Karaplis
Publisher: McKeller & Martin, 2010
How I got it: It was sent to me from the author for review.

Rating: ★★★★

Fairy tales have been told and written down for centuries. Throughout the years, they've not only been told, but retold, and many have been completely revisioned. Fractured gives us incarnations of Snow White, Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, all old favorites, but with a very different twist. They're modernized: Snow White is Yuki (meaning "snow" in Japanese) White, budding graphic designer and friends of the seven dorks who hang out in the computer room. Cinderella is Cindy, fangirl extraordinaire and texter to the extreme—who manages to snag tickets to see her reality-TV crush at a Halloween party. And the little mermaid is Adrianna, a girl with a beautiful voice but the perceived impairment of a gigantic schnoz—thank goodness YouTube can get her an audience without her having to show her face.

All three tales are completely rewritten and re-imagined in ways I have never seen before, but they all retain the structure and basic story of the original fairy tales collected by the Grimm Brothers and written by Hans Christian Anderson. Karaplis manages to make everything work incredibly well—Snow White's apple, Cinderella's fairy godmother and the ball, and the little mermaid's impairment keeping her from her love (in this case, it's not a prince at all, but fame as a singer).

So let's break it down by story.

"Snow White and the Seven Dorks" is about, as I said, Yuki White, new girl in school, slightly badass, and awesome artist. She eventually falls in the geek crowd, not necessarily as one of them, but as their hang-out buddy, someone who also happens to use the computer room. Yuki is seriously awesome—she's got a sassy, sarcastic air to her that is just great (funny and charming) and it makes her incredibly likable. I wanted to be her friend. I also really liked how the story alternates between the present at the dance she's at with her crush and how she got to that point. There's a lot of development within the 30 pages of the story, not only in Yuki's character, but in her relationship with Kevin, head dork and all-around nice guy. This was by far my favorite, if only because I loved Yuki so much.

"Cyberella" is, of course, the Cinderella story. But this story is told completely in texts and blog posts (which are done by Trevor, fan blogger for the reality show True 2 Life). Some might find the texting to be a bit annoying, but I quite liked looking at the story through them. It's a new sort of epistolary telling, along the lines of ttyl by Lauren Myracle. Karaplis completely captures the language tweens and teens use in texting, accidental misspellings included. It makes it real. At times they seemed more like IMs than texts, but then again I'm sure there are people who text that frequently. My one problem was that the "prince" of the story, the True 2 Life star, says his Mystery Girl left something behind at the party, but then we never find out what it is. But all in all it's a cute story and I enjoyed it.

"Swan Song" is the story of the Little Mermaid, Adrianna (nicknamed Adi), who has a beautiful and professional voice, but a nose that she is incredibly self-conscious about. Her friend Fiona convinces her to create YouTube videos after a particularly awful encounter with a bully who targets her nose, and Adi agrees, as long as she doesn't face the camera. But looks aren't everything, and she makes a decision that will change the course of her life forever. It's a story about self-acceptance, even if Adi might not accept herself as she is—we can learn from her, as the story's title page indicates. And the ending gave me goosebumps, by the way. It's a great retelling, even if I didn't quite identify with Adi or agree with the decisions she makes. I kept telling her NO DON'T DO IT. But she did anyway. And if she didn't, we wouldn't get a Little Mermaid story.

One quick note about Jenn Brisson's illustrations. Each story began with a title page that included a tag line and an illustration. I loved them all. They look like pencil drawings, and they're set in a white oval on a black background. They all have this surreal quality, which goes very well with the fairy tale theme, and are all slightly creepy. Again, I especially love the Snow White one, a girl holding a circle with an apple on it and looking slightly anxious, with a crow in a top hat swooping under and around. Very nice.

If you like fairy tales, especially fractured ones as I do, I would definitely check out this one. Completely original tellings in a modern context—fabulous!

This is day four on the Fractured blog tour—see what other bloggers had to say about Fractured and some interviews of Jo at the other blog stops:

4 comments :

  1. oh wow this sounds really good! I love retellings of fairy tales, like that one book, Beastly. I haven't hear of this book so thanks for reviewing it!

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  2. This looks awesome! I really just started getting into retellings. I bought a Snow White one and really want Beastly. This one contains three of my all time favorites!

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  3. I'm not sure how I feel about this kind of thing - I love fairy tales but having them in such a modern setting just seems a bit wrong somehow.

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  4. Sam, I don't think it's wrong—the whole point of fairy tales is they are so basic that they go across time and are still valuable. Modernizing fairy tales is just another way to enjoy the older stories; if stories were never retold or modernized, we'd have a much less rich culture than we do today (for example, some of Shakespeare's plays wouldn't have been written).

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