Wednesday, May 21, 2014

10 Things I Loved About Ever After High by Shannon Hale

I am a giant Shannon Hale fan. I have never been disappointed when reading any of her books and, having had the chance to meet her in person at Book Expo American, she is also amazingly sweet. So when I saw these books with her name attached I had to read them as soon as possible. And once again I wasn't disappointed.

So far the first two books are out: The Storybook of Legends and The Unfairest of Them All, but there is another one due out later this summer (August, if my sources are correct...)

You should totally check out Shannon's website where you can learn a little bit more about the series and about how she ended up writing these books. It's a story complete with secret code words and everything! Or you can check out the Ever After High website where you can learn more about the world, play games, take quizzes, and find out about other cool stuff related to the series!
But for now I give you my Top 10 Things I loved about the first 2 books! (completely spoiler free! I promise!)
  1. The premise: Basically fairy tale characters have children who are destined to relive the stories in order to keep the tales alive. Apple White, the daughter of Snow White, and Raven Queen, the daughter of Evil Queen, are both attending Ever After High to learn everything they need to know about their destinies. And they're roommates. And Raven's tired of everyone wanting her to be evil. Shouldn't she be able to choose her own destiny? Tell me you're not intrigued already.
  2. Fairy tales! I am a sucker for all things fairy tales as our regular readers will know by now. And Hale is a master at reinventing them. She does it again - although the traditional stories are a bit more traditional than many of her personal novels, Hale plays with the stories in a delightful way.
  3. The puns: Oh the puns and the word play! So ridiculous and just on the edge of being too cutesy, but never crossing over. I loved every minute of it. For example, as she is packing for school, Raven Queen is listening to Tailor Quick's new album. They eat in the Castleteria and take Chemythstry and exclaim "Hexcellent!" And it all just adds to the delightful-ness of the story.
  4. Madeleine Hatter: Raven and Apple may be the main characters, but Maddie will steal your heart. (And I appreciated that there is an explanation as to why the Mad Hatter and his daughter are in fairy tale land). She is quirky and just wonderlandiful! And her conversations with the Narrator are hilarious.
  5. The Narrator: Shannon makes the narrator a character and I love it. It's not overdone, but it's a great little quirky addition to the story.
  6. Chapter Titles: I have a tendency to get wrapped up in the story and miss out on chapter titles, but with these I force myself to pay attention because the titles are usually changed or crossed out and written over or, at the very least, make me giggle.
  7. The Antagonists: I like the fact that there is both an external antagonist (actually many of them and not all ones you might initially expect) and internal antagonists with the characters sometimes becoming their own worst enemies. There are moral dilemmas, confusion, and a lot of soul searching as each character tries to deal with the things that come up. Yet...
  8. Age appropriateness: ... it's all done with the audience in mind. One of the biggest pet peeves I have with another book series that is tied to doll merchandising (which I will not name here) is that the books are written for an older audience than the dolls will most likely be appealing to. This means that parents and grandparents looking for books for their younger children or grandchildren often feel uncomfortable buying them. Mattel and Little, Brown have worked hard to make the merchandise and books aimed toward the same group. The title may include the word "High" as in high school, but there is nothing in the books that would keep even younger primary school kids from enjoying them. I think they would make fun read-alouds as well! So I have no qualms about putting these books in the hands of a grandmother. And I have a new recommendation for people frustrated or confused concerning the other series.
  9. Fun AND deep: I mean this in the best way. As I noted in #7 above, there are some pretty deep philosophical dilemmas that arise, including an easy to follow discussion of the differences between fate and free will. There's also discussion of consequences, loyalty, friendship, determination, family issues - all tied up in a fun, romping story that never ever gets anywhere close to pedantic or moralistic.
  10. Fun: Did I mention these are fun? They are so much fun. They make me happy. I want to read them again. I want to read more! I am so happy I picked them up and I hope you'll give them a read too, whether you're reading them with a child in your life or just for the child in your heart.

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