Series: Tyme #1
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on April 28th, 2015
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
"Think you know Rapunzel's story? Think again, because the tower was only the beginning..." -- Jennifer Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of THE FALSE PRINCE
In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so---her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can't imagine any other life.
Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He's the first person Rapunzel's ever met who isn't completely charmed by her (well, the first person she's met at all, really), and he is infuriating-- especially when he hints that Witch isn't telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised ... and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.
I basically love all fairy tales, but the tale of Rapunzel has a special place in my heart – mostly because I think Tangled is probably my favorite Disney fairy tale movie. So, obviously, Grounded sounded like something I had to have in my life. I don’t read a lot of middle grade books, but occasionally they’re just the thing I need in life: light, not too complicated, and FUN. And Grounded sure was all of those things.
In this version of the beloved fairy tale, Rapunzel is a young and sheltered girl who has been living in a tower all her life, cut off from the outside world. Her guardian, who she calls Witch, is the only person she has contact with… until a boy kidnaps her and takes her to see the fairies, who in turn send her on a quest across the land to ultimately discover the truth of her history and of the Witch. She’s then confronted with the outside world and needs to figure out for herself who she can trust and whether she truly wants to be free.
This book had a lot of little clever elements that made the fairy tale rise to proper Disney levels of fun with surprising amounts of depth. I loved the fact that because Witch had so much control of Rapunzel, she had kind of brainwashed her into believing that princes were evil. Rapunzel, therefore, didn’t trust them. She loved her tower. She wasn’t a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued. I love that Jack is the Jack we know from Jack and the Beanstalk, and that he’s a super caring big brother trying to save his family. I love that other fairy tales also are sprinkled into this world and that they fit together like puzzle pieces. It’s super creative, engrossing, and fun.
But I’m of two minds about the characters, which leads to the middling rating for this book – because characters are the most important part of any book to me. On the plus side, they are dynamic, vivid, and their voices are unique and powerful. And for middle grade, that’s definitely what you’re looking for. Kids of the target age group will easily have some laughs over the mischief the characters get up to and the complex dynamic between them. There’s rapid fire dialog, some banter, and though Jack and Rapunzel don’t like each other very much at the start, they do grow to become very close friends. The way that relationship developed was very gratifying.
My personal hiccup is my reaction to Rapunzel’s character. She’s so. freaking. naive. And I can reason that away, for sure. She’s LITERALLY the sheltered child who doesn’t know anything about the world. And I can totally imagine that her reaction would be to trust Witch 100% because she doesn’t know any better. It’s definitely realistic in that sense. But when she’s been traveling for so long and heard so many stories about how evil Witch actually is and how she’s been using her – time and time again, all the stories lining up – and she STILL won’t doubt her? Holy crap. Like how much more obvious did it need to be spelled out? I almost wanted to smack her.
I guess the book just went on a bit too long for me before Rapunzel really got it through her thick skull. And I do think that younger readers would take less issue with this than me. But yeah. It was entertaining and fun… and then it dragged on… and the point the whole book was trying to make was abundantly clear… and my interest started waning. Luckily there were still some side stories that I wanted to know more about, so I did keep reading and I enjoyed the book overall. It’s entertaining. It just won’t be my favorite. And definitely not my favorite version of Rapunzel. Dang, girl. Never ever leave Jack’s side. You’d be lost without him.