As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

April 13, 2011

A KISS IN TIME by Alex Flinn, 2009

A Kiss in TimeWhile on a European vacation, Jack kisses Princess Talia, awakening the citizens of her entire country, all of whom have been slumbering for 300 years. The princess and her countrymen are shocked to find themselves in the twenty-first century, but Talia makes a go of it, trying to become a modern teenager. For his part, Jack finds that Talia has awakened within him an ambition to make something of himself. (Amazon)
Review by Natalie Gorna, Writer for the Fresno Examiner

It seems that everybody is talking about Beastly, the latest fairy tale venture in Hollywood.  Many who have seen the movie also know that it is based on a novel with the same title by Alex Flinn.  I confess: I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the book.  I like this trendy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, especially the part when Kyle’s magic mirror tells him the truth behind online dating sites.  However, I am fonder of a later release by Alex Flinn called A Kiss in Time.  This is another unique interpretation of a fairy tale in a modern setting, the classic Sleeping Beauty.  I know this story pretty well, but how I’m always on the lookout for new twists on this known love story—A Kiss in Time was a perfect fit.    Unlike some retellings, the magical elements within the original storyline are all in the plot of A Kiss in Time.  However, instead of focusing on only one main character’s perspective of the story, Flinn presents here a two-sided narrative that alternates between the first-person voices of the princess (“Sleeping Beauty”) and her rescuer (“the prince”).  For all expecting a traditional take on the story, I have to warn you: this book is very, very funny, so prepare for a comical version of Sleeping Beauty who is not rescued by a prince.  

Princess Talia of Euphrasia (a fictional country bordering Belgium) was bestowed with many “gifts” by her fairy godmothers.  Malvolia, an evil witch, is responsible for casting the infamous curse that will cause Talia to prick her finger on a spindle and die.  Although the curse is mollified, the entire kingdom of Euphrasia lives in fear and extreme caution until Talia’s sixteenth birthday.  Talia herself is almost a prisoner in her own home because she has no personal freedom.  However, destiny cannot ever be thwarted.  Talia and consequently all of Euphrasia fall under the curse due to circumstances and they are doomed to sleep until true love’s kiss will awaken the princess.  That is when Jack O’Neill of the twenty-first century arrives. Jack is a seventeen year-old American tourist who is a slacker with no personal ambitions and a guy on the rebound from his recent break-up with his girlfriend, Amber.  On an impulse of pure boredom, Jack and his best friend Travis sneak away from their guided tour and leave Belgium for the nearest beach, only to accidently enter into Euphrasia.

After stumbling across Talia’s tower, Jack’s actions meld with fate, ending in an untimely kiss.  All of newly awakened Euphrasia, Talia, and the rest of the royal family are completely shocked with the evident difference in time, the present world’s reality and resulting changes, and most of all, the fact that they actually succumbed to the curse in the first place despite all precautions.  Jack’s favor lands him in the dungeon and Talia begins to feel like persona non grata in her own home on account of her foolishness.  The two secretly escape together for their own selfish reasons and return from Europe to Jack’s home in Miami, Florida.  However, their personal problems seem to be increasing the farther they get away from Euphrasia. Talia’s sole mission is to fulfill her destiny and make Jack fall in love with her, while Jack’s only purpose in agreeing to bring Talia along is to make Amber jealous.  Jack initially thinks that Talia is a spoiled brat, but his opinions start to change when his life, his family, and his own temperament are changed for the better by Talia’s thoughtful attitude and charming personality.  Now that Malvolia has returned to exact her final vengeance and Talia’s stay in Miami is already limited, Jack must try to save everything he had gained by one wayward kiss.

Since Talia sleeps for 316 years, A Kiss in Time explores how a person from past times might react to today’s technology, modern conveniences, and modern society.  The author also compares modern ideas concerning family, marriage, and beauty to those of the seventeenth century.  Now, I generally stay away from young adult literature that overuses teen jargon.  However, I really liked the way Flinn translated the feelings of modern teenagers even when they’re talking the modern way.  As Flinn delves into the untold details and unanswered questions in the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, her main characters complement each other in her modern setting of Miami.

Also, it’s really hard to resist the Pride and Prejudice relationship between Jack and Talia.  At first, Jack and Talia share a mutual hatred; Jack despises how self-centered, spoiled, and dependent Talia acts, while Talia scorns Jack’s immaturity and his frequent discouragement. However, both Talia and Jack begin to learn from one another.  Talia was given perfect traits like beauty and intelligence by the fairies, but as a person she is far from being perfect.  Jack teaches her how to be self-reliant and unselfish.  Talia convinces Jack that his parents and his sister truly care about him, and she helps him discover his real goals and interests.  Jack’s low self-esteem is lifted by Talia’s persistence in showing him the truth about his life.  Jack stops behaving the way people expect him to and he finally establishes himself as a unique individual.  

Talia’s experiences as a modern teenager outside of Euphrasia further develop the author’s opinions about modern issues.  Not only are Talia’s comments and reactions humorous, but they also display an honest perception of modern culture and society while conveying modern life's impressions on Talia.  Moreover, the way that Talia struggles with modern teen language and current trends make her character even more endearing with all its old-fashioned qualities and moral principles.  Talia’s wholesome, innocent, and seventeenth century outlook on the modern world and Jack’s knowledgeable analyses of teenage behavior are opposites that attract in the novel.  An unusual diversion in Flinn’s take on Sleeping Beauty is the fact that Jack is a “commoner,” not a prince.  This difference contributes to Talia’s gradual understanding of humility and independence, not to mention respect for a person instead of his/her title or status in the world. As with Kendra in Beastly, Flinn shows that perhaps the villainess in Sleeping Beauty wasn’t evil but misunderstood and deserved a second overview.  Overall, I found A Kiss in Time to be a rhythmic version of a well-known classic with a careful interweaving of wisdom and moral advice that will entertain and reward all who take the time to read it. 

Market: Young Adult fiction
Language: Moderate
Sensuality: Moderate (nothing graphic!)
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: identity, relationships, vengeance, independence

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Alex Flinn


Amoniel said...

This sounds really cute :)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Amoniel--this sounds adorable! I haven't read a fairy tale retelling with a contemporary, actually. At least, not that I can remember! How fun! I'll definitely give it a try. Thanks for yet another awesome review, Natalie.

CarrieM said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I added it to my TBR list!

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

I will have to add this one to the pile, Kim. I enjoyed "Beastly". It was light and fluffy but an interesting retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales.

Elena said...

I read this one and thought the author had a great idea - but just wasn't able to make it pop. I actually think it could have been better had it been focussed on a more mature audience. The characters' progress was kind of skipped over. Again, great idea/story interpretation. I just thought it was a little watered down. Another hundred pages of development would have done it just right.

Shelby said...

I don't agree with Elena. This book was really good. I thought its age level was good, and I loved the Meryl/Talia relationship, because they helped each other grow. The only thing I didn't like was the Jack/Amber relationship. Oh, yeah, and Travis. He seemed to be an extra.