Book Review: Sweetly by: Jackson Pearce

Rating: 4/5

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publish Date: August 23, 2011

Origins: From Publisher for Review

Format: Hardcover

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Not everything is as sweet as it appears...

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch 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.

Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past-- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone-- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen it's next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Review: In Sweetly, a companion novel to Sisters Red (which still stands wonderfully on its own), a family is torn apart with the disappearance of one of their children. Now grown, Ansel and Gretchen are on their own after their stepmother kicks them out of the house, yet still haunted by the loss of Gretchen’s twin sister 12 years before. Gretchen still sees the eyes of their attacker in her mind and hopes one day to find the witch who took her sister.

Traveling from Washington State, the pair gets stranded in the sleepy South Carolina town of Live Oak. The town where no one trusts strangers and does not easily give help to outsiders. They are directed to Sophia Kelly, the town’s chocolatier, to assist her with odd jobs around the house. However, not everyone in Live Oak is a friend or fan of Sophia’s. Some residents downright hate her and hold her responsible for the girls who leave town each summer after her chocolate festival. As the summer wanes and Ansel grows to love Sophia, Gretchen starts to put together pieces of a mystery which has been growing in strength for years.

Live Oak thrives on keeping secrets. And there are some secrets that are worth more to keep than to expose to the light. Not everything is idyllic or sleepy in Live Oak as it appears on the surface. A highly captivating re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel; Sweetly holds you tight as you delve into the secrets that Sophia, Gretchen, Samuel, and Live Oak all hold within. This is a deceptively deep and dark story about the power of love and family and whether intentions mean as much as actions. Remember, not everything that glitters yellow is gold…

Fairytale Retellings series: Sisters Red (1), Sweetly (2), Fathomless (3)


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