Book Review: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Once upon a time . . .
There are so many don’ts in Mirabelle’s life. But the most important one seems to be that she can never go visit the town of Beau Rivage, where she was born and her parents died. Which is why she feels she must. Here she can finally find answers about who she is, what happened to her parents, and of course she can escape the ever watchful eyes of her overprotective guardians. She has been planning her escape for months and is about to set foot into a magical world – it is her birthday present to herself. What she does not know is that “birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage.”
When Mirabelle arrives she finds herself capturing the attention of two brothers. One pleads with her to leave town immediately. The other woos her and sweeps her off her feet. Like many of the people who live in Beau Rivage, they too have a secret. One that may cost Mirabelle her life.
It is, of course, the fault of those pesky faeries, they are never to be trusted. Sometime they curse you and sometimes you get lucky. You see, many of the inhabitants of Beau Rivage are cursed to live out the stories of the world’s greatest fairy tales, often with a twist. Fairy tales, the real ones, often don’t have happy endings. They were, after all, written by men with the last name Grimm. Will Mirabelle live happily ever after, or will she even live at all?
Mirabelle is a strong, enchanting young lady. She boldly, though perhaps unwisely, takes off to find answers that she needs for herself. At times Mira is a swoony girl, caught under the spell of Felix and you groan for her. The clues are slowly and richly laid out that things will not end well for Mira. At the same time, Mira is developing a complex friendship with Felix’s brother Blue, who warns her time and time again that she should be wary of things she does not know or understand. Here Cross takes the familiar tropes of instant love and the love triangle and makes them into something rich and complex; you see it is easier to believe when you are dealing with enchantments and fairy tales. There are clues in the words that Cross uses to tell her story: “Curses bloomed . . . Girls became victims and heroines. Boys became lovers and murderers. And sometimes they became both.”
Beau Rivage is a glorious place where there are glimpses of real life fairy tales just gleeming under the surface. If you know to look, you can find them. There walking down the street is a woman with part of her heel missing. There is a boy waiting to find the princess he is destined to awaken from slumber. And there sits a beauty waiting to fall in love with a beast. Beau Rivage is Las Vegas with a fairy tale theater acting out its stories in the streets.
The cast of characters are perhaps the most fascinating part of Kill Me Softly. Teenagers spend many parts of their days worrying about who they are and what they are becoming; they feel trapped in a world full of expectations and lack of control. How much more so would that be if they had a magical destiny that they could not escape. How do you assert yourself when a fairy has waved her wand and declared that this is your part to play? The people that Mira runs into are all fascinating. One young man literally walks around and all the animals follow him. Another young lady is truly haunted by her beauty as she knows in the end what will happen to her, she is just waiting for the pieces to fall into place. And yet, these characters try to find ways to assert themselves and twist fate and take control of their own stories. Sassy and full of life even as they await their death, these characters steal your heart.
Cross tells a rich and magical story with layers. In a tone fitting for a fairy tale, twisted as it may be, Cross enchants with her language and style. These fairy tales have unique visions and twists and are guaranteed to enthrall readers. Twisted fairy tales are popular right now and readers will enjoy their time in the world of Beau Rivage. The magic creeps slowly onto the page and lures you into its web. I hope that Cross will visit the world of Beau Rivage again as I would be interested in seeing how some of the other stories play out.
4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended for older teen and adult readers, especially those who still believe in the wonder of magic. This is truly a unique look at the fairy tales of old, some of which I was not familiar with. I look forward to visiting this world again.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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