2 Book Reviews: Shannon Hale’s Latest

Shannon Hale

Dangerous

Okay, I’m going to just warn you right now.  This is a bit spoilery.  I kept enough of the twists, turns, and secrets quiet that you’ll still enjoy the book a bunch if you haven’t read it, but there are a few things in there that maybe you wouldn’t want to know ahead of time, and I thought you might want to be forewarned.

I originally ordered the book through The King’s English bookstore.  I’m a gigantic Shannon Hale fan and she promised to sign everything coming from the King’s English on her website a few weeks ago.  She’s was on a huge tour, though, (possibly without much time to go sign a billion books at the local bookstore), and I’m a few states away.  The picture of the book cover was so shinny and purple.  It taunted me.  Other people were reading it, I just knew it.  I was glad I had a nice signed hardback in the mail, but I was going crazy.  So I bought it twice – Kindle instant gratification for the win.  I spent the rest of that Sunday buried in it.

There was so much that I liked about Dangerous.  There are scads of amazing things to laugh at, from Dad’s terrible puns, to the fact that the main character’s name is Maisy Danger Brown, to the nicknames she gives her false arm.  It’s a kick-ass story, (the sort of thing I love) with a superhero twist.  I can already tell that it’s going to be one of those things that I re-read over and over again.  It was well worth every penny of buying it twice.

Now to the critique part: While I loved everything about the book once the story really got rolling, it did take a bit for me to buy it all.  Hale says on her website that it’s meant to be a modern-day superhero story, but it felt more to me like the very near future.  I had a hard time suspending my disbelief at first and falling into the world.  Even now I find some of it  hard to swallow.  Does a woman really take five children into space for winning a camp relay without any parental waivers or permissions, or any advance notice to the kids?  Maisy’s parents accept her mutated powers story, agree to move to Florida, and destroy their middle class life almost without pausing for reflection.  It also was strange to me that Maisy’s mom suddenly had a back story where she was part of a band of Mexican freedom fighters.  Cool, yes, but totally out of left field.  I found some of it more believable after hearing characters explain later, but it still gave me pause as I was reading through it all the first time.  Some of my disbelief could also be my own unfamiliarity with the comic book genre, I’m willing to admit that.  If a comic book were suddenly a novel, this book is it.

It was Maisy herself that pulled me through the whole thing and eventually left me devouring her story like I was starving.  She is one spitfire of a girl, full of flaws but with a kind heart.  I thought Hale’s choice not to have Maisy kill any of her team mates (despite their desire to kill her) was admirable and telling about the kind of superhero Maisy will become.  She goes from being the sort of girl you wish was your best friend, to being the girl you cheer for, to being the kind of girl you want protecting your universe.

I should have known Hale’s feminist tendencies enough to realize that the climax of the story would hardly rest on the back of Maisy’s complicated relationship with Wilder.  Still, it blindsided me in the best possible way to realize that he was not a real problem at all in the scheme of things.  The climax was so much bigger and impossible than I had considered.  It was very well done; thrilling and scary at the same time.

In short, I’m obsessed despite the flaws.  I hope there are sequels.  I’m considering giving one of my children the middle name “Danger.”  I’m already waiting for the movie to come out.  I’m sporting the Dangerous temporary tattoo that came with my signed book – tech powers for the win! I’m attempting to convince everyone I know to read it. So get on that, okay?

Ever After High, Book 2 – The Unfairest of Them All

I frankly expected to hate book 1.  I mean, it was commissioned by Mattel to sell a line of children’s dolls.  That was really its sole purpose.  But Shannon Hale signed on to write them.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the dichotomy – would they be good, or would they be bad?  Was it worth spending $12 to find out?  I love everything Shannon’s done, so I ultimately decided to take the chance and spend the money.  I actually enjoyed it.  A lot.

Book 2 came out late last month, and was exactly what it promised to be, with a little social justice thrown in for good measure: When their friend Mattie Hatter is accused of setting the Jabberwocky loose, Raven Queen and Apple White band together to save her from banishment.  It features a bevy of terrible fairy tale puns and a hilarious cast of characters.  The peas porridge banter was especially hilarious: “Some like it cold, you know,” says the Evil Queen, ominously.   While the silly was much appreciated, there was also a little meat there.  The main conundrum of the novel is whether to choose to be a bad person to ensure someone else’s Happily Ever After, or whether it’s okay to choose to be yourself even if it means no one gets a Happily Ever After.  Nicely done.

I wasn’t expecting much more than a silly time from this novel, and it delivered in spades.  I read the kindle version – complete with pink and purple chapter headings.  I was drooling over the actual novels in Barnes and Noble the other day, though.  They’re this pink-and-purple-gasm of frilly inked borders and embossing which made the girl in me want one immediately.  The only thing I was left not loving was that Shannon wrote this book with her husband, Dean, but his name isn’t on the cover.  I wish he got a little more credit than Shannon’s thank you in the back, because I’m sure he deserves it.

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