Monday, September 14, 2015

Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen, 2011

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With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.
This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

(256 pages)


Snow in Summer is a Snow White retelling moved to a 1930's small-town setting, and while going in I was really excited about all the potential (especially because it's written by Jane Yolen!), I finished the book with a wrinkle on my brow and a "what in the world did I just read?" look in my eye. Because this book was weird. Just flat-out, honest-to-goodness weird.

For one thing, I wasn't really comfortable with the Satanic vs. Christian themes throughout the book. I think Stepmama is supposed to be some sort of Satanic something-or-other, i.e. a witch, and that alone is really creepy. When you add in the horribly scary church she takes Summer to later in the book and the disgusting caul Summer's Christian aunt/godmother gives her for protection (the caul=a piece of membrane that covered Summer's face when she was born), I was supremely uncomfortable. And grossed out. I mean, can it get much more disgusting than a salted, dried piece of old membrane? The answer is an emphatic no!

I do like the way Yolen took so many different aspects from the original story and twisted them around (like the way the main character's name is "Snow in Summer," and her mother called her "Summer" but her step-mother calls her "Snow"), and I've never read a Snow White story like Snow in Summer. But whereas Yolen's Sleeping Beauty retelling Curse of the Thirteenth Fey (my review) twisted everything in really cool ways that made an awesome new story, Snow in Summer twists things in ways that are . . . well, they're twisted. And repelling. And I really didn't like it.

I don't know, maybe other people would like this book better. I can't really think of any situation in which I would recommend this book, but I suppose if anyone asked me for a really funky/creepy retelling of Snow White with weird religious undertones, this would be my go-to suggestion. Because I don't think any other book fits the bill.

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