Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce


 by Jackson Pearce

Series: Sisters Red (#2)
Pages: 336
Publisher: Hachette Children's
Published: October 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781444900590

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.  When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?

Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Gretchen's spent most of her life mourning her twin sister, taken by a witch no one else believes existed. Most of all she wonders why she got to survive. Then she finds herself in Live Oak, where her questions find fuel. Are the witches here? Are they behind the disappearances? Or is it Sophia, the suspicious but charming girl she's staying with?

Sweetly is a companion to Sister's Red, with the stories sharing a setting. Sweetly is easily read without the prior knowledge of its predecessor, but Sisters Red presented a much broader world and explained things that are left vague in this companion.

It was a loose interpretation of Hansel & Gretel, with connections to the tale if you were looking for them. It wasn't, however, a retelling. The plot of Sweetly is unique and unpredictable even with knowledge of the original fairy tale.

Pearce's writing style is smooth and finds the balance between description and action. The combination lends to Gretchen's voice being evoked clearly and vividly. It was easy almost immediately to feel close to her.

Sweetly was concluded in a superb fashion. It was free of loose ends but without the cheesy happily-ever-after fairy tale feel. The parting image of Gretchen determined and sure at odds with her initially confused character summed up the journey she underwent. Sweetly ends with a reminder of how hard our characters worked for their relative peace, and that though it may get easier, the work will never be done.

Sweetly should appeal to fans of Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red and to readers of darker paranormal YA.

I give Sweetly a 4 out of 5.