Monica!'s Reviews > Briar Rose

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
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So had you asked me, friends, to tell you the story of Sleeping Beauty—the real story, not the one that Disney had girlified—I would have tried to patch together some half-remembered Grimm’s Fairy Tale, maybe with a bit of the original French story thrown in. I also would have included the details that the bad fairy had silver eagles in her hair, and that the prince, when he tried to break through the wall of thorns surrounding the castle, was sung to by the ghosts of people who had tried to get through before him.

So you can imagine my shock at the realization that at least portions of my understanding of the fairy tale came, apparently, straight from this book. Which I had no memory of reading, but clearly must have when I was quite a bit younger. It’s a little unnerving to learn that I’ve been incorporating the Chełmno extermination camp into my mental catalog of traditional stories. Yeeks.

Anyway, this book is straight-up amazing, although clearly intended for teens, rather than however old I was when I read it. Becca is written brilliantly—her relationship with her grandma Gemma is something that both her family members, and the reader, look upon with a certain amount of envy. And she's got an epic love interest, too. Who sings Sondheim! And is intellectual without being elitist!

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to describe the plot without giving absolutely everything away, and without somehow trivializing the story of a girl willing to risk her entire understanding of her Grandmother in the pursuit of her family's past. So instead, I will leave you with the story that Gemma would tell Becca almost every night. See if you can find the truth in it, like Becca did. Just remember, in the words of Jane Yolen, “Happy-ever-after is a fairy tale notion, not history. I know of no woman who escaped from Chełmno alive.”

Once upon a time, (view spoiler)And they lived happily ever after.
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