Winter by Marissa Meyer

Final Ruling: THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH STARS TO DESCRIBE MY LOVE FOR THIS BOOK

(5/5)

Winter is the most amazing book I have read this month, and the wonderful end to the best series I have read ever. Marissa Meyer is, without a doubt, one of the best (and most magical) authors of our time. Her books not only retell fairy tales in a new and imaginative way, but also shed light on a plethora of real world issues, as well as integrate countless minorities into her stories (something I totally totally appreciate). There are racial minorities as kickass heroines, accurate and respectful representation of mental illness, all different types of relationships, racial commentary, sexism commentary, and countless other threads weaved into a collection of stories which, on the surface, are simply fairy tales set far in the future. Cinderella is a cyborg, Belle is a take-no-prisoners ship captain, Rapunzel is a lovely genius, and finally, in Winter, we are introduced to a heartbreakingly lovely and mentally ill Snow White.

As someone who is struggling with mental illness herself, the representation of it and the attitude of other characters towards her. Winter has vivid and terrifying hallucinations and panic attacks; brave princess Winter has brought this upon herself, due to her flat out refusal to manipulate people with the mind-twisting abilities that all Lunars possess, which is quite possibly the most selfless thing that anybody in Meyer’s world could ever do (at least in my opinion).

Most people cringe in the face of mental illness, especially those with conditions as serious as Winter, and that right there is exactly what makes Winter’s relationship with her guard, Jacin, so phenomenal and unprecedented in anything I have ever read (which is saying something because seriously I read so much it should be considered a sickness). Their relationship is exactly how a relationship between a person of sound mind and a person with a mental illness: Jacin comes to her aid during episodes instead of leaving her to fend for herself, Winter feels safe with him, Jacin knows how to spot the signs of her attacks and knows how to help her all the way through them, Winter does not feel the need to hide those scary parts of her from him, and most important of all JACIN DOES NOT VIEW HER AS BROKEN! <– this right here is the most important thing in any relationship involving someone with a mental illness. Jacin accepts every single part of Winter, even the not-so-pretty parts, and his declaration that he does not view her as broken seriously brought me to tears. I have never never read a book about a mentally ill person that does not in some way involve fixing them or negating their illness. This is where Winter rises above and beyond all of the books of our time (at least above all of the books that I have read). Not only does Winter provide an accurate and positive representation of mental illness, but it achieves this in the young adult fiction genre, meaning that this message will go out to the younger generation of Americans. If I had had a book like this one while I was growing up, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so hopeless, alone, and irrelevant in my fight with mental illness. Words cannot accurately express the sheer depth of my gratitude to Marissa Meyer for providing a story that I have no doubt, will impact millions and millions of people and perhaps let everybody struggling with mental illness that they are not as alone as they think.

Ugh, I have so many feelings about this book, I can’t even handle it. ALSO, the mental illness representation does not stop with Winter’s hallucinations and panic attacks, Meyer also incorporates an accurate representation of PTSD in Scarlet. There are so many books in which the heroines go through horrible ordeals, but come out the other end with mere physical injuries. These authors gloss over the psychological effect of major trauma, thereby downplaying the experiences of people who actually know what it is like to live through such an ordeal, and who know that PTSD is absolutely not something to be glossed over. Meyer is the only author that I have read that does not gloss over those psychological effects, instead revealing the not-so-pretty side of it in Scarlet, and does not shy away from the long and arduous journey that is overcoming PTSD. My love and appreciation for the representation of that journey is immense, so much so that mere words and mere tears cannot express it.

THANK YOU MARISSA for giving me the representation I so desperately needed but didn’t even know to look for. She has most definitely ruined all other books for me, as their lack of representation is glaring in the face of Meyer’s masterpiece. Not only does that representation include the representation of mental illness, but she also incorporates amazingly diverse characters, providing a representation of strong people of color that I know for a fact they are always looking for.

Enough about the characters, the plot and also makes this story impossibly better. A book chock-full of daring adventure, tearful reunions, suspenseful undertakings, heartbreaking tragedies, epic romance, expertly integrated commentary, breathtaking magic, and in the end, the triumph of the righteous: in other words, everything you could ever want from a fantasy novel (or really, any book at all). In addition to such a wonderful plot, the absolutely breathtaking writing itself seems to transport you into a surprising yet familiar fairy tale world, one that I am sure everyone hated leaving just as much as I did.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone I come across, and especially anybody who needs to know as desperately as I do that they are not alone.

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Beastly by Alex Flinn

Final Ruling: 1/5 stars

Woah, okay, talk about mixed emotions. It takes a lot for me to dislike a book as thoroughly as I disliked Beastly. It is a completely inadequate retelling, managing to negate everything that fairy tale retellings aim to do. Quite truthfully, the only reason that this book deserved any stars at all is the fact that it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which just happens to be one of my very favorite fairy tales.

Okay, first of all, the protagonist is an absolute brat, like the douchiest of all the douchey rich boys in the world. He plays pranks of those he views as lesser than himself, he is downright cruel to anybody he deems unworthy, he treats the people trying to help him like absolute trash, and he still thinks that he did not deserve to be transformed so that his outsides matched his insides. Not to mention that Kyle’s transformation from cruel and spiteful to good and pure is completely unrealistic. Let’s be honest, nobody can undergo a complete personality change in only two years, especially one as radical as Kyle’s, or “Adrian”‘s. Within this same realm of honesty, a girl, and a witch no less, as powerful as Kendra, should have done something much much much worse after the way that Kyle treated her. Now, I believe in redemption and all of that, but the changing of someone’s fundamental personality is not the same thing.

Moving on to the plot, which was pitiful, even though it did technically follow along the lines of Beauty and the Beast, as it was supposed to. However, the story showed no evolution from the original, even though countless years lie between them. For goodness sakes, it has been hundreds of years, it is time to evolve away from a storyline that revolves around Stockholm Syndrome, of all things. Yes, I know that the original Beauty and the Beast had just as much Stockholm Syndrome, but the purpose of retellings is to evolve the story, a purpose which Beastly somehow managed to miss entirely. There was no new twists, no new meanings, no underlying meanings to be developed, it was simply the same old story in modern day New York City; this fact makes the entire book predictable to a fault, as well as a tad bit creepy, because let’s face it, things that were acceptable in France a long long time ago, are not acceptable in modern day America.

I would recommend this to pretty much nobody, instead recommending that they read the original fairy tale, as even that is a bajillion times better than Beastly.