Book Review: Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Alysse Near

Title: Fairytales for Wilde Girls
Author: Alysse Near
Genre: Dark, gothic YA/fantasy
Date Read:
15/07/2014 – 31/07/2014
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

wildegirlscoverThis book. This book. I have a lot of feelings. At times I’m not sure why I loved it so much, and there were times while I was reading that I wasn’t planning on giving it more than 3 stars. But I was still thinking about it days after finishing it, so it clearly made an impression.

Isola Wilde, named for Oscar Wilde’s sister who died at the age of nine, can see things that aren’t really there. She has six “brother-princes” in the form of two ghosts, a fairy, a Fury and a mermaid (not all her princes are men) and she knows there is a unicorn herd in Vivien’s Wood, the forest near her house. One day she comes across the dead body of a girl in a bird cage, hanging from one of the trees in the woods, and soon after the same dead girl turns up at her window, telling her to turn down the volume of her heart and stay out of the damn woods. This sets off a chain of events that lead to Isola discovering that there is more to her life and to the magical world around her, than she realised.

On the surface, this book is a modern-day gothic fairytale, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s about life and death, love and loss, mothers and daughters, and living with mental illness. There were times when I got confused and wondered if I’d missed something, and there were other times when I felt like nothing was happening and the stakes weren’t as high as I was being told they were (actually there was a decent-sized chunk in the middle where that was the case), but I found myself compelled to read on anyway. It became clearer the more I read that it want really about what was happening on the surface, it was about what that symbolised. Usually I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but it was being symbolised with ghosts and fey and deconstructed fairytales, so how could I not? Everything fell into place in the last 50 or so pages and made far more sense than I had thought it was going to.

The cover, while lovely, is a little misleading; after seeing it, I was surprised that the book was set in the present day, and there were times when I felt the writing style clashed with the setting. But the illustrations in the book are beautiful, and exactly how I imagined the brother-princes to look. There were other things that bugged me, too, like Alejandro’s constant use of the endearment “querida” (he seemed to say it every time he addressed Isola, and I’m complaining about that as someone who swooned over Jesse in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series as a teenager). The character of Isola, and by extension, the book itself, did take a turn for the darker in about the third quarter of the book, which made me a little uncomfortable, but I think that was the point and she did come out of this eventually.

This is the debut novel from Alysse Near, and I certainly look forward to more from her, particularly if they are in the same dark, gothic, magical vein as this one.

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