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Bewitching

Review

Bewitching

In Alex Flinn's BEASTLY, an unpopular girl who turns out to be a witch transforms a high school jerk into a real monster. Kendra, the witch in that novel, was an interesting character in her own right. In BEWITCHING, she has the opportunity to tell her own story --- all several centuries of it.

The book opens in the wake of the plague scouring England in the 17th century. An emotional plea awakens Kendra's witchy powers, but given the suspicious climate of her tiny "plague village" and its Puritanical attitude toward witchcraft, she decides to get the heck out of town, taking her younger brother with her. They wander in the forest for a while and happen upon (surprise!) a house made of gingerbread, surrounded by a picket fence made of creepily realistic gingerbread boys and girls. There she is apprenticed to the witch, both exploring her own power and realizing (almost too late) that witches are not to be trusted.

"As in her other fairy tale retellings and mash-ups (such as CLOAKED and A KISS IN TIME), Alex Flinn takes a playful approach to retelling the classics... Add in a contemporary "mean girls" story and a surprising narrative about unexpected friends, and you have a book as charmingly complex as any love potion."

They also can't be (easily) killed, which is why Kendra has nearly 400 years of history --- not to mention some serious time spent in the classroom --- under her belt: "I don't need school, of course. I can make the necessities of life from thin air, and after all these years, the curriculum is a bit dull… Even the people are, for the most part, boring. The school queen who thinks she's one of a kind would be surprised to learn she is one of a million, and bullies have plagued every generation. But teenagers make good companions. Absorbed as they are in their own worries, they tend not to notice me much."

Fast forward a few hundred years, and Kendra finds herself with a new challenge. Emma is a loner, much like Kendra herself, except she finds solace in books rather than in magic. She's lonelier than she realizes, but all her problems seem to be solved (like magic!) when she discovers that Lisette, her stepfather's daughter from a previous marriage, will soon be moving in with them. Lisette is beautiful, and charming, and at first she seems to want Emma to be her best friend. Emma's mother warns her about Lisette, but who can trust the "evil" stepmother anyway?

Kendra really wants to help Emma, but the lessons of history have taught her about the dangers of meddling in other people's affairs. There was that one time, with the French Dauphin, and that other time, on the Titanic… Will Kendra be able to help Emma, or will Emma have to help herself?

As in her other fairy tale retellings and mash-ups (such as CLOAKED and A KISS IN TIME), Alex Flinn takes a playful approach to retelling the classics. Here she manages to weave together Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, the Princess and the Pea, and the Little Mermaid with real episodes in history to create a novel that's both factual and fanciful. Add in a contemporary "mean girls" story and a surprising narrative about unexpected friends, and you have a book as charmingly complex as any love potion.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 18, 2012

Bewitching
by Alex Flinn

  • Publication Date: February 14, 2012
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0062024140
  • ISBN-13: 9780062024145