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If You Go Into The Woods Today, You’re Sure Of A Big Surprise

Erin reviews Jackson Pearce's Sweetly, a contemporary reimagining of Hansel and Gretel.

If You Go Into The Woods Today, You’re Sure Of A Big Surprise

BOOK REPORT for Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Cover Story: Acceptably Spooky
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Straight Up Grimm
Bonus Factors: Chocolates, Fairy Tales
Relationship Status: A Great Campfire Buddy

Cover Story: Acceptably Spooky

This cover SCREAMS YA, no lie, but I do really like it. The lit house is stark and creepy and the trees forming the witch's face are pretty awesome. I still think I'd slip the jacket off if I were reading this book onlunch break at work, but I have no problem rocking it on my bookshelf.

The Deal:

Ansel, Gretchen and her twin sister walk into the woods one day, even though their parents have warned them against it. But only Ansel and Gretchen came out.

Distraught, Ansel and Gretchen's mother grieves herself to death, leaving her husband to remarry a, yep, you guessed it, wicked stepmother. After Pops dies, the stepmother kicks Ansel and Gretchen out of the house, which is where our story begins.

Ansel and Gretchen make their way across the States, eventually breaking down in a tiny town in South Carolina called Live Oak. They're taken in by a kindly and gorgeous chocolatier named Sophia who, despite providing delicious goodies for everyone, isn't well-liked by the townsfolk. (The townsfolk are obviously cray-cray. If a serial killer made me some chocolate, I'd shake that serial killer's hand and invite him over for dinner. Uh, as long as the chocolate didn't have people in it.)

As Sophia's annual chocolate festival approaches, the tension mounts in the household. Gretchen begins to suspect that Sophia isn't as innocent as she seems, which is complicated by the fact that Ansel's fallen butt-crazy in love with her. Gretchen, aided by local townsboy Samuel, digs to find the truth, but is the big, bad witch really as bad as everyone thinks? Or is she worse?

BFF Charm: Meh

Try as I might, I just couldn't really feel for Gretchen and Ansel. I didn't dislike them, but I just didn't care as much as I should have. Gretchen was certainly brave - after she learns of the creepy Fenri surrounding the woods, she sets to kicking their asses but good- but she also spends WAY too much time dickering back and forth on whether Sophia is innocent or evil. Don't be Switzerland, Gretchen! Make up your mind!

And Ansel? Well, he's just too hot to want to befriend. You can't befriend people that hot. You need to just seduce them and then move on. Sorry if that makes you lonely, super hot people! You should comfort yourselves by staring into the mirror and thinking about how hot you are.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Jackson Pearce isn't afraid to rachet up the sexy times, and for that I both applaud and thank her. And there were DEF some swoony moments between Gretchen and Samuel which I very much appreciated. This book probably would have earned a higher score on Ye Olde Swoonometer were it not for Ansel and Sophia heating up the sheets.

I know, I know! He's so hot! BUT he's also sort of an idiot and as much as Pearce was careful to present Sophia as a very damnaged, insecure woman, I couldn't help but think that she was taking advantage of Ansel in some ways. I'd be interested to see if that's just my take on things, or if anyone else felt the same.

Talkty Talk: Straight Up Grimm

Hey, guess what's huge right now! Fairy tale reimaginings! Guess what this book doesn't have! Schlocky dialogue about how the main character is actually a Grimm/the daughter of a princess and they need to fight crime/break the spell and that the only people who can help them are Haywire from Prison Break/a nine year old kid they gave up for adoption! THANK GOD.

Instead, Pearce weaves a tale that's genuinely spooky, and she plays around with archetypes so that no one is quite what you think they should be.

Bonus Factor: Chocolates

MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HOLY, there's SO MUCH CANDY in this book!!! Sophia runs her chocolate shop out of her home, and not to be hyperbolic or anything, THAT IS SORT OF MY LIFE GOAL, and there are endless descriptions of the time and care and ingredients she puts into her chocolates. Sweet, sweet chocolate.

Plus, chocolate's good for you! My fitness boot camp instructor said so! Well, actually what she said was, "You are allowed to have ONE piece of candy today and it has to be dark chocolate," but I'm choosing to believe that that's code for "Dark chocolate is the finest chocolate in all the land! EAT ALL OF IT!"

Bonus Factor: Fairy Tales

Hey, remember a few paragraphs ago when I was making fun of Grimm and Once Upon a Time? Yeah, I'm still going to watch them though. Cause I lovelovelove fairy tales.

What's not to love? Brave princesses! Dashing princes! Witches who fatten up kids until their chubby little fingers are ripe for bbq sauce!

Casting Call:

Jennette McCurdy as Gretchen

WHAT? I like her!

My Boyfriend Anton Yelchin as Ansel

Don't let that babyface fool you. My Boyfriend Anton Yelchin is smoking hot.

Olivia Thirlby as Sophia

Olivia Thirlby always seems to be relegated to the wise-cracking best friend role. I want to see her play the complicated and vulnerable Sophia.

Relationship Status: A Great Campfire Buddy

When I first met this book, I wasn't looking for anything serious. It was the lazy, dog days of summer, and I was too sweaty and hot to think about wrestling under the sheets with someone new. Plus, there was this one big glaring ISSUE with this book that I could never get over, not if I wanted to enter into a committed relationship with it.

But that's okay! Because it turns out that this book made a great campfire buddy! We'd sit up late at night, spinning tall tales about the monsters who preyed on innocent children in the woods near camp, and making ourselves sick off of too many s'mores.

And even though I could never see myself settling down with this book, I really appreciated the spooky time we spent together at summer camp. And who knows? We might run into each other again next summer . . .

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy of Sweetly from Little, Brown. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Sweetly is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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