Bewitching by Alex Flinn
Rating: SKIP IT
This book, unfortunately, had two significant issues. Let’s talk about the easy one first:
Take a look at this description:
Kendra Hilferty is a witch. Yes, a witch–and she has been for hundreds of years. She might be known for the inventive curse she put on one beastly teen guy, but there is more to her story. Here, she chronicles her immortal existence, from first discovery of her powers. While always good intentioned, Kendra has found that her bewitching can backfire, and her magic turns versions of The Princess and the Pea and The Little Mermaid–set against the real-world backdrops of Versailles and the sinking of the Titanic–on their heads. Kendra’s reminiscences of her past are wrapped around a real-time Cinderella story in which she is trying to play fairy godmother… to the stepsister. With dark twists, hilarious turns, and unexpected endings, Bewitching is a contemporary read for fairy-tale lovers, fantasy fans, and anyone looking for more Alex Flinn.
What’s this? A book all about a kickass witch? Awesome!
Bewitching, in fact, is barely Kendra’s story at all. Only the first 50 pages concern Kendra herself, and the rest is about other people’s stories, and narrated by other voices.
This was, as you might expect, rather a surprise.
The book actually flipped narrators throughout, and even the narrator of the main Cinderella story’s narration style changed midway through due to a time skip.
Marketing Bewitching as a book about Kendra is misleading (and downright wrong), and certainly disappointing for one who went in expecting an awesome witchy story.
Now for the other issue.
In Disney movies in recent years, we’ve seen a lot more independent, strong princesses who don’t need a Prince to save them, but get him anyway.
Bewitching does not follow that trend.
Actually, if there were any singular theme of the novel, it would be that a woman can’t be happy without a man, and if she doesn’t have one, she might as well kill herself.
I am most grieved to inform you that that is not an exaggeration.
This is especially sad to see in a book that could have had so much female power – Kendra is a totally badass powerful witch, after all – but Alex Flinn really let us females down here.
The princess mopes when she doesn’t end up with the prince, the mermaid can’t go on without her prince, and the girl in the main Cinderella arc only finds self-confidence as the result of getting her prince.
Even the happy endings in the book don’t feel happy, because they only come because of a man! Whatever happened to the idea that a girl doesn’t need a man (although it’s wonderful to have one)?! What happened to the idea of loving one’s self?! Are we women only allowed to be happy if we have our perfect prince?! As someone who is single and proud, I was distressed to learn that there was not a single bit of evidence for this in the book!
Honestly, it’s hard to find something I really liked about the book. I love fairy tales, and the book was still mildly entertaining, but Alex Flinn’s writing was far from impressive. The narration was weak, and often annoying.
Kendra’s portion of the book, despite her awesome witchy-ness, was just plain dull. Emma’s first narrative portion was obnoxious to the point of screaming. Just because she was only 13 years old does not mean you need to dumb down your writing! The use of casual speak/typing like “sooooooo” was sooooooo grating. This improved somewhat when Emma aged, but instead of being annoying she just because the stereotypical “not your normal high school girl.” If I never see another weird girl who, despite being in Middle School, loves doing nothing but read classic novels again, it will be too soon.
I’m sorry, Alex Flinn, I really did enjoy Beastly for what it was, but you let us down with this one.
If you’re looking for more fairy tale adaptations, skip this one and go check out one of the other recent fairy tale releases instead. They’re hot these days, and you can find one that has a strong female character, stronger characters, and stronger writing. (If you haven’t already, check out our review of Cinder here!)