Book Review: Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen

7 Apr

ImageAdapted from a short story, this quirky take on Snow White takes place in West Virginia. Snow-in-Summer Morton isn’t quite eleven when her father is besot by a witch near her mother’s grave. Soon, Stepmama takes over Summer’s life–she calls her Snow, forbids her from seeing Cousin Nancy again, and makes her do all sorts of chores around the house. Meanwhile, Papa walks around as if in a dream. It takes Summer a while to realize that Stepmama isn’t a good thing in her life. It hits her around the same time Stepmama takes her to a strange church that features garbled chanting, a snake, and a jar of poison… Complete with seven dwarves, a magic mirror, and enchantments, this is the story of a strong-willed Snow White who will make you rethink the fairy tale.

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors who I think is often overlooked. Her talents range from historical fiction to sci-fi/fantasy. If you don’t recognize her name, you might recognize her from reading The Devil’s Arithmetic in school. She hooked me at a young age with The Queen’s Own Fool and The Pit Dragon Trilogy (which now has four books, go figure…)

Anyway, I digress. Snow in Summer is just as well written as her previous novels. Having spent four years in Virginia in university, driving through West Virginia twice a year, I feel like I can say she’s hit the nail on the head with the setting. The description, the sense of community, and the old-timey feel all seeped through the pages, making for a fun, vivid read.

As far as characters go, I liked seeing Summer’s growth and development. The book is written as though it’s a record of events after the fact–so sentences like “I was only eleven then, so…” kept cropping up, which I enjoyed because it justified some of younger-Summer’s thoughts and actions. Because of those justifications, her decisions to obey Stepmama became more believable and more likable. Otherwise, I think I would have decided she was too dumb for me to like. Summer continues to grow throughout the story and becomes much stronger towards the end.

The plot was new and fresh, too. Set in the first half of the 1900s, it features cars, moving pictures, and school houses–none of this fairy tale castle and charming princes stuff. I will say that the ending was too fast for me. The first 9/10 of the book is slower paced–not too slow, but steady. The last tenth went by in a whirlwind, and I would have liked more build-up to the inevitable death of Stepmama (we all knew that, right?) and to see some of the development of the relationship with the stand-in “Prince” (which was a twist that I loved!). She spent very little time with the dwarves–I actually got to the point where I thought they wouldn’t be in the book at all, I had so few pages left, and I would have liked to see more of them.

That said, this was a great read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes fairy-tale retellings or is just looking for a good YA book. Happy reading!

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One Response to “Book Review: Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen”

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  1. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

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