Perfect Book for Teenage Girls: Warped
It was just a bit of tapestry. A very old tapestry, tucked into a crate of old books that Tessa’s dad bought at an auction. But Tessa is fascinated. The image—a wild, beautiful unicorn—is so vivid . . . and so are her dreams. Then, when Tessa pulls a loose thread on the tapestry, her whole world starts to unravel. Will, a handsome—if haughty—young nobleman, has been yanked out of the sixteenth century and plopped down in her room in the middle of modern day Portland, Maine. His fate is somehow tied to the tapestry, and he needs Tessa’s help.
Inexplicably drawn to this stranger, Tessa agrees to help him, and the next thing she knows, she’s immersed in a centuries-old conflict between ancient enemies—and both of them want the tapestry. With the Fates on one side, threatening her family and all she holds dear unless she does their bidding, and a powerful witch on the other, determined to destroy anything that stands in the way of her quest for eternal life, Tessa must find a way to protect the ones she loves.
Subjective Appeal: A Fairy Tale for All Ages
It is a truth universally acknowledged that little (and not-so-little) girls love unicorns. In fact, the only thing little girls like more than a unicorn is a handsome young prince with a slight streak of arrogance but also, when push comes to shove, a good heart.
This story has both. Ok, yes, Will (whose surname is ‘de Chaucy’ of all things—a generically ‘landed gentry’ sort of name if ever I’ve heard one) is technically the son of an earl, but let’s be honest: any title of nobility will work in a pinch. He’s occasionally brusque, and haughty, and understandably old-fashioned in his ideas, but he’s also brave and strong and daring and did I mention handsome? That Tessa starts to fall in love with him will come as a surprise to precisely no one.
Prince Charming De Chaucy is not alone, however; there are other fairy tale tropes here, as well—a wicked witch, enchanted animals, evils snakes, dragons, castles . . . even the three Fates, who weave the tapestry of human history. Though much of the action is set in twenty-first century New England, Will and Tessa do take a quick side trip into a land that looks remarkably like sixteenth century Cornwall, so Tessa gets the comfort of jeans and sneakers and running water and the glamour of billowing skirts, bodices, and castles.
All of this adds up to a fun and frothy fairy tale romance with plenty of danger and action and relational angst along the way—perfect for the not-so-little girl and the little girl that, more often than not, still lives inside her.
Developmental Value: A Not-So-Wicked Stepmother and a Knight in Shining . . . Petticoats?
In addition to the usual fairy tale ingredients, this story does include a stepmother—or a stepmother-to-be, at any rate. Tessa’s mother is dead, and Tessa is both coping with the loss of her mother and adjusting to her father’s girlfriend, Alicia. Although initially wary of Alicia (who is nothing like Tessa’s mother), Tessa comes to understand that Alicia is good for her father—that she makes him happy. And she’s no leech: Alicia is a successful CEO whose business sense invigorates the family business (by capitalizing on the coffee craze and turning the used bookstore into a bookstore-cum-café). And she seems to genuinely care for Tessa’s dad. By the end of the story, Tessa is able to respect Alicia, and can view her father’s upcoming wedding with acceptance and even peace. In a culture filled with blended families, this is a welcome example of accepting new family members, whether stepmothers, stepfathers, stepbrothers, or stepsisters.
The ‘evil’ stepmother is not the only fairy tale figure turned on its head here. While Will may be a handsome nobleman, he is no knight in shining armor; more often than not it is Tessa who saves the day. It is Will, not Tessa, who is in distress, and for much of the book Tessa is the ‘knight’ determined to figure out what happened and to protect him from danger. Not that she’s all that good at it, mind you, but of the two of them, she wears the ‘knight’ hat more frequently than he does, and in the final confrontation, Will is effectively out of commission while Tessa engages with the wicked witch and pleads with the Fates on Will’s behalf. Thus, unlike so many fairy story females, Tessa is not merely part of the scenery, a prop to be used and manipulated by the major actors in the story. She is herself an actor, and she participates enthusiastically in the action around her. This enjoyable blending of the traditional fairy tale with a more modern perspective on female independence (and competence) will allow readers to enjoy their happily ever after story while encouraging them to act with confidence instead of passively waiting for their dreams to come true.
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