Reviewed by Julie, Children's Lit. enthusiast and pop culture geek
Jane Yolen’s BRIAR ROSE retells the fairy tale of “Sleeping Beauty” in the unlikeliest of ways. Ever since she was a child, twenty-two year old Gemma was fascinated by her grandmother’s own version of “Sleeping Beauty.” When her grandmother passes away, her last words are as cryptic as they are stunning: “I am Briar Rose.” This revelation sends Gemma on a journey to Poland, where she is determined to learn about how her grandmother survived a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Yolen expertly weaves elements of a classic fairy tale with one of the darkest, most frightening times in history. “Sleeping Beauty” eventually falls to the backdrop of this war story, a tale of loss, fear, and ultimately survival; yet, “Sleeping Beauty” is what also ties these scenes together. Gemma’s research and travel to discover the truth behind her grandmother feel like attempts to solve a mystery hidden deep within history—and readers will be thrilled to accompany her the entire way. A real page turner, with beautiful language and a richly complex story of flashbacks and present day attempts to understand the past, “Briar Rose” is a bittersweet story readers won’t soon forget.
Market: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Violence: Depicts the stark reality of WWII and the Holocaust, can be graphic for young readers
Sensuality: Moderate, including discussions of homosexual charactersAdult Themes: Death, war, grief, the Holocaust