Posted by Venus on Sunday, September 23, 2012
Labels: intermediate book review
Alex and Connor have been hearing fairy tales all their lives, but neither ever dreamed that one day they may be a part of them. Sucked into The Land of Stories, Alex and Connor must find a managerie of objects in order to escape. As they travel between kingdoms, the twins encounter witches, goblins, trolls, wolves, princesses, mermaids, and fairies all of which either hinder or help the siblings in their quest.
Ah, celebrity authors. Many celebrities have gone the way of writing children's books. Some like Emma Thompson, Julie Andrews, and Jamie Lee Curtis have written fabulous children's books that have gone well beyond any celebrity. Others like Kristi Yamaguchi, Madonna, and Jay Leno proved that some people, even when they announce they would love to write children's books, should not be allowed to. I am afraid Chris Colfer falls into the second category.
Full of over-used tropes, flat characters, strange POV shifts, terrible similes, an elementary school use of description, incredibly didactic, and a plot that lacked imagination, I feel like I should have put the book down on chapter three but felt confident that the book could only get better. How wrong I was.
Each time Colfer used a simile I found myself cringing. Like this fabulous one, "Mrs. Peters was staring at her as if she had just witnessed a gruesome rural animal give birth." Or this brilliant one, "Alex clambered up the tree faster than any animal she had ever seen in a documentary." There were many others, so many that I began talking to the book. Too often my reading was punctuated with, "You have got to be kidding me."
Alex and Connor have very little character arcs and felt so much like your classic smart kid/slacker stereotypes that it became rather boring. Alex is smart and emotional, a Hermione Granger who is even more unlikable. Far too often Alex ends up thwarting their plans because she feels the need to "experience" The Land of Stories or help the various characters they come across. Connor is the goof-off with a mouth, the comedic punctuation to the end of every line. If Alex isn't busy asking fairies about their feelings, Connor is beside her stupidly protesting having to do something that could very well save them both. At no point did these characters learn or grow.
Perhaps the worst part was the plot itself. Two children, trapped in one world can only return to the other if they find some magical items to make a spell. Instead of being full of danger and intrigue however, the story felt very much like a scavenger hunt. Once it was revealed that there were other ways to travel between the two worlds, all suspense was lost for it was clear that even if they couldn't get the objects, they could and would eventually get home. Never mind that Colfer was already working with a source material that has been done to death. Honestly, if you are going to do a fairy tale mash-up, you have got to do different, ground breaking, or at least funny.
But Chris Colfer wants us all to learn a lesson. That fairy tales all have morals and the supposed mores that we were taught are wrong. What Colfer's interpretation of the classics shows a lack of research and literary analysis. I can't even begin to go down this path of analysis without simply becoming angry at the lack of imagination and depth Colfer managed to rehash.
Here was the thing, there were a few characters who were good and whose stories I thought far more interesting than Alex and Connor's, that being the Evil Queen and Goldilocks. If Colfer had decided to write an entire story from the perspective of Goldilocks, I think it could have been good, because she was the only character with anything deep and emotionally resonant and Colfer may not be a good enough author to see it. His editor should have, but then celebrity authors often get away with far too much than your "regular" authors, the ones of non-celebrity status. Want proof? Look no further than the brilliantly (*sarcasm*) written novel by Snooki.