Whatever After #1: Fairest of All
"Once upon a time my life was normal. Then the mirror in our basement ate us." That's how Sarah Mlynowski starts out FAIREST OF ALL, the first installment in her new Whatever After series of funny fairy tale retellings. As you might be able to tell, the narrator is snappy, witty, and just a little bit edgy. Her name is Abby, and she and her younger brother Jonah have just moved from Chicago to tiny Smithville, where the kids in Abby's fifth grade class call pop "soda," don't make a proper peanut butter and banana sandwich, and can't play tag like normal people.
"At its heart, FAIREST OF ALL is really just a pretty straightforward retelling of the Snow White story. But what makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read is Abby's incredibly funny narration, the somewhat bossy relationship she has with her younger brother, and the rapid-fire pace of both the dialogue and the action."
Abby wants to be a judge, and she's giving her parents a pretty harsh verdict: "I'm going to be a really great judge because I'm all about peace and order. I'll make sure justice is always served, because it's not fair when bad people don't get in trouble, or when bad things happen to good people. Like my parents making me move to Smithville."
Abby is sure that life in Smithville is going to be boring; at least she can rely on stories and books to keep her company. That is, until one story in particular comes to life and starts Abby and Jonah on a new adventure that might put even Chicago to shame. Jonah, who is more apt to explore than to complain, finds a hissing mirror in the family's new basement. But before Abby can stop it --- or even figure out what's going on --- she and Jonah have been sucked into the mirror and deposited in a place that doesn't seem like Smithville, or like anywhere else they have ever been.
And yet, it's strangely familiar, especially when they encounter the girl with hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, and skin as white as snow. And that old lady who's trying to get her to eat a particularly suspicious-looking apple. Yes, it's Snow White, and Abby and Jonah are about to get sucked not only into a magic mirror but also into an unexpected version of a very familiar story.
As in time-travel novels, Abby and Jonah soon discover that their actions --- in this case, saving Snow White from that poisoned apple --- have unintended consequences. What happens if the Snow White story doesn't play out the way Grimm intended it to? Will Snow White ever meet her Prince Charming? Pretty soon, the siblings are drawn into the world of (a kind of annoyingly airheaded) Snow White, her friends the dwarfs (including female dwarves Tara, Enid and Frances), and the kingdom of Zamel. By comparison, Smithville is sounding pretty good after all.
At its heart, FAIREST OF ALL is really just a pretty straightforward retelling of the Snow White story. But what makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read is Abby's incredibly funny narration, the somewhat bossy relationship she has with her younger brother, and the rapid-fire pace of both the dialogue and the action. This is just the beginning of a new series of fairy tale retellings featuring these characters, and readers will be eager to see where Abby and Jonah will be whisked away to next.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 1, 2012