Sunday, December 18, 2011

YA Fiction: The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block

Full title: The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold
Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books (HarperCollins)
Date: 2000
Format: paperback
Acquired: purchased from
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 229
Reading time: nine days (one for every story)

This is Francesca Lia Block's book of "fractured" fairy tales. By this, I mean they are very, very fractured, rampant with unfulfilled longings, betrayals, lost innocence, brutality, drugs, and even murder. These aren't your ordinary happily-ever-after tales. Bad things happen, the worst sides of human nature are unlocked, and yet - there is some hope, healing, and love.

I probably should not have read this so soon after finishing Psyche in a Dress, because these tales seem to lack some of the raw, lyrical power I found in the first Francesca Lia Block novel I read. I kept wishing the stories would continue past their endings so I could see how everything really turned out, not just the final conclusion to the climax. Still, these nine fractured tales are enthralling in similar ways for Block's unique writing style and ability to open up some of the worst issues that can be faced by contemporary teens and young adults.

"Snow": This first story didn't thrill me very much. It seemed to be primarily concerned with the loss of childhood innocence, with growing up, though the revelation Snow reaches in the end about love is so much more realistic than the common view.

"Tiny": Also concerned with love, I found this one surprisingly cute, at least insofar as I can remember.

"Glass": So lonesome, but it has a nice message and ends well.

"Charm": Sad. The basic plot is similar to Psyche in a Dress, with the ending, fortunately, resolving in healing for the broken women abused by society.

"Wolf": This was one of the more realistically-written, rather than lyrical, stories, yet for some reason I found the conclusion to be harder to grasp than most of the others.

"Rose": I'm not sure what fairy tale this one is based off of, but it's basically a tale of friendship and how it changes through a blooming love for another. Everything in the world must change one day, no matter how much we wish it wouldn't...

"Bones": This was, by far, my favorite chapter of the book. I'm unfamiliar with the tale of Bluebeard and expected it to be another healing-through-hard-won-love story, not how it actually turned out. I thought it was one of Block's better story developments, as the ending was completely unexpected, in true fractured-tale fashion.

"Beast": This was my other favorite story. The tale is almost exactly the same as the Disney movie version until the ending, which is one of Block's actually-realistic-to-life love stories.

"Ice": I didn't quite grasp the point of this story. It dealt with love and betrayal, but I never figured out which fairy tale it was retelling or what its message was.

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