I hate meeting authors when I have not yet read their books. I feel like it is almost a betrayal because I cannot let them know how much I enjoyed getting lost in their story. With my hectic school schedule, that was not an option this year. So I decided to save it for fall break when it would be October, my favorite month of the year.
Let me just say that it was the right decision - the creep factor in this novel makes it worthy of an October read.
Summary (from Goodreads):
As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.
When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?
Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
"There it is - the fear, crawling up through me from somewhere deep in my chest.
It's darkly comforting and familiar, a friend I despise. I've never known myself
without the fear - as much as I want it gone, I'm not even sure who I'd be
if I woke up without it." - Gretchen
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Again, I saved it for October because it seemed like the appropriate time to help me celebrate the creepiest month of the year. There were times when I was reading this and had to put it down and step away. Not because it was bad. Because it was that good.
Pearce thrusts readers into a retelling of an age-old fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, and delivers a solid story. As the story begins she uses repetition and alliteration, two strategies often found in children's stories. They helped ease me into the story, providing a rhythm that seemed to calm me as I read the heart-pumping "Prologue." As the story progresses, Pearce abandons the repetition and alliteration because it is no longer a children's tale. This is a tale of survival - a tale of finding one's true self - a tale of facing one's fears.
The development of Gretchen and Ansel as characters is right on target. Pearce leaves nothing to the imagination with these two - except what happened to their sister. Instead, she creates a clout of mystery and intrigue around Sophia and the town of Live Oak, leaving the reader to question what is the true story of the disappearance of eight young girls as well as Gretchen and Ansel's sister.
The story's conclusion is rife with action - making this a unisex read. This is not a story just for girls; it is a story for all readers of all ages.
Readers will feel satisfied long after the story is finished - maybe even question walking next to the woods for a wee bit of time. This is what makes Sweetly worth the read.