I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
ALERT: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
From the back of the book:
“As a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witchlike 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 castes Gretchen out as teens, they stumble upon the sleepy Southern town of Live Oak and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweetshop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that excite 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 her 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 not go away hungry.”
Altered fairy tales are one of my favorite genres. This is the first story I’ve read featuring Hansel and Gretel, so I was looking forward to reading it. I enjoyed the book, but beyond the obvious similarity in names and the inclusion of a “candy” house, I had a hard time making a true connection to the story of Hansel and Gretel.
What I Liked About The Book: Gretchen is a strong female character, who after years of being haunted by the disappearance of her sister, finally decides to fight back. Her distress over the loss of her sister, her struggle to find herself, and her desire to save the young girls of Live Oak (and even Sophia) come across very clearly. Pearce created a very likable and strong heroine. I also love the cover. It’s a beautiful design for a dark fairy tale and I’m sure will lure many readers. I liked that Pearce moved away from the traditional altered fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but I wish the connection had been stronger. The ending is very thrilling and is a true page turner. I wish the rest of the book had followed it’s quick pacing.
What I Didn’t Like About The Book: Despite a similarity in character names and the candy house, this story really isn’t about Hansel and Gretel. Is Sophia supposed to be the witch? It’s obvious she’s hiding something and she’s certainly not one of the good guys, but she’s really not a witch. The Fenris (wolves) in the story makes it seem as though the story is really about Red Riding Hood (the fact that the missing girls all wear red adds to that illusion.) I understand that Sweetly is supposed to be a companion book to Pearce’s Sister’s Red. I’ve not red it, but I’m wondering if Sweetly would make more sense if I had read Sisters Red first.
Overall, it was an interesting read even though it did not live up to its potential.