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Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

This is such a fun retelling. It keeps all the elements we love from the original Hansel and Gretel fairytale, but the author adds her own twist to it that really makes for a compelling story. And it kept me guessing all the way to the end, which happens to be satisfying and well tied-off. Despite all the plot twists and all the questions they generated, the ending is complete and I am left with no more questions. That is fab storytelling!

I love how Pearce made the "witch" in the story ambivalent. I both loved and hated, second-guessed and felt compassion for her character and that's really hard to pull off. In the end, I feel sad for her, because she did atrocious things for an understandable reason. It's not a good one while at the same time it is a good one--yes, conundrums...conundrums... This book is definitely all about our choices making us who we are and if our choices leave us with serious regrets or feeling like maybe we're not good people, then we should take a step back and re-asses, because otherwise we could end up being like Sophia who does worse and worse things for the sake of something that could be a good reason, but cannot be said to be good enough of a reason to perpetuate evil.

In the end, if we find we've taken steps on the wrong path, it is only we who can decide to shift the course. No one else can do that for us. They could nudge us, but if we don't want to listen, like Sophia refused to, then we simply bring about more destruction.

The warning presented through Sophia's character as the foil to our fabulous MC Gretchen is that we always have the power to choose and when we decide for the things that bring regret, they will lead to self-recrimination, guilt and self-hatred in the long-run and that's no good for anyone, no matter how "good" our intentions are. We humans have an inner compass and it tells us when we're going the wrong way. So many have learned to ignore their inner voice, and this book is a beautiful reminder and brilliant illustration for why we should start listening again.

A fabulous book for all ages. yes, there are some gory bits at the end, but it's done well enough that it shouldn't be a problem even for upper YA readers. And the message is worth it. Learn to trust in yourself and stand on your own two feet the way Gretchen does. Follow the voice that speaks for what is right, no matter what, even if it means burning bridges, because you'll live a contented life if you do and you won't destroy yourself with all the negative emotions that come with following the path to evil. Simply outstanding.

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