After their stepmother kicks them out, Gretchen and Ansel come across the Southern town Live Oak and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweetshop. Gretchen can feel the magic of the chocolate and other sweets and feels for a moment safe from the witch. But rumors circulate in the town that Sophia is a witch and is behind a number of disappearances of local teens. This seems to happen during the annual chocolate festival. Gretchen seeks out the truth. In the meantime can she save not only herself but the other girls of Live Oak?
I really love Jackson Pearce's writing. SISTERS RED made my top ten YA list of 2010. SWEETLY is the companion novel and doesn't disappoint.
I love how Pearce spins her unique twist on a classic fairy tale into a spooky modern day story which is complete with monsters, guilt, and even romance. Sophia has a twisted CHOCOLAT feel to her. Just like that movie, Sophia does bring her own kind of magic to town but with a terrible cost.
The images and descriptions are crisp and fresh. One of my favorites has to be at the beginning when she describes Gretchen's baby sister:
...her hair was like broken sunlight, identical to the girl's standing besides her.
Gretchen's character starts off as a teen afraid of the hidden witch that stole her sister to a heroine who's willing to push past her fears in order to save not only herself but others in Live Oak. Sophia is a mixture of Southern charm and mystery. The town's bad boy Samuel also shows some vulerabilites and reveals his own secret. I liked the chemistry between him and Gretchen.
The backdrop of the South is also a character. The woods, the town that slowly dies, to even the local museum which houses a pair of Robert E. Lee's boots add much favor to this tale.
The climax is fast-paced with a heart pounding revelation.
Love this story! Can't wait for more!
First 50 Pages: Wow, I’ve been reading a ton of great books lately and I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be able to put this book back down. The first chapter alone held me to the edge of my seat when the author was describing what had happened to the twin of Gretchen and the sister to Ansel. Specifically, how the witch in the woods took her, which plays a key role throughout the rest of the book.
Style of Writing & Plot Points: I’ve always liked the way Jackson Pearce formulates her stories. She is a very talented writing when it comes to keeping the suspense going. I never felt bored when I was reading this book. Everything kept me guessing right up until the very end. I thought I had everything figured out about halfway through the book and once I finished I realized I really didn’t have anything figured out at all. That is why I really like this author.
With that being said, I think the characters in Sweetly are better done then they were in Sisters Red. This time around, they had more depth and I especially liked the character Gretchen. You just feel so bad for her throughout the book and it is hard not to like her. Gretchen transforms from a scared little girl to a woman who is capable of controlling her fears and reacting to intense situations. I like strong female characters in books instead of having a character that has to rely on a man to save her. In the end, Gretchen becomes that kind of character, making me like her even more.
The romance in this book is below par for my taste, but the action in this book makes up for that. I just didn’t see the chemistry between either of the couples and I thought their relationships were a bit shallow and unnecessary.
I will admit I wasn’t too impressed with the explanation of the disappearances of the girls from Live Oak. There is a twist to the ending of the story that I don’t want to give away in my review, but I’ll just say that I think it could have been done much better.
Final Thoughts: Even though Sweetly had a few disappointing moments and flaws, I still really enjoyed this version of Hansel and Gretel. It has a few surprising twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and I love how it has modernized the tale. Jackson did a good job with this one, and each with each book she comes out with I can see her growth as a writer. I’m looking forward to her next release!