Macmillan Children’s Books, £6.99, ISBN 978-1-4472-4109-6
Briar Rose’s 16th birthday is approaching, but the poor dear can’t catch a break. A guy is giving her a hard time and turning the kids in the neighborhood against her because she wouldn’t put out to him. The cute football star, Patterson Daniels, seems to be interested in her, and she’d certainly love the idea of doing… more… with him, until she learns that he’s interested in her only because he’s heard from guess who that she is a hot one who puts out. Still, there are her friends Reena Hill, who participants in American Civil War reenactments alongside her, and Joshua Quinn, her best male friend ever.
Anyway, if boy troubles aren’t bad enough, Briar discovers that. on her sixteenth birthday, she is going to fall asleep for 100 years. It’s a family curse, you see, and it looks like there’s no escaping this one. Reena’s grandmother knows magic and stuff, and she may know what to do, but whatever it is, Briar ends up sleeping only to wake up in a fantasy world where Prince Charming types and evil queens may not what they seem. Oh, and Pat, Josh, and Reena end up in this world with her, with Josh wanting to save Briar with Reena’s help while Pat just happens to be the wrong place and at the wrong time when he ends up tagging along.
As a dark fairy tale of sorts, Briar Rose has a haunting premise, even if the whole Sleeping Beauty redone thing is a bit played out by now, and early on, this is a gripping read. Briar’s increasing sense of fear and isolation as she realizes that her life as she knows it will end on her sixteenth birthday is pretty heartbreaking to read. However, things become less interesting once she and her friends are in the fantasy world.
Oh, there are some interesting things in this alternate world, but I have a hard time understanding Briar’s motivations, and since her motivations are the driving force of the story, that means I have a pretty big problem in understanding the direction of the story. I can understand Josh wanting to save Briar – we have a classic nice guy and wins the love of the girl he has secretly cherished all this while by being all action hero for her – but I don’t understand Briar’s casual willingness to risk her life as well as Josh’s, Reena’s, and Pat’s for some guy she barely knows in that fantasy world. Worse, she also guilt-trips her friends into laying down everything for her fantasy dude. Why? And why would her friends be so willing to go along with her? If I were in this story, I would be the one screaming, “Hell no, I’m not going to risk my every inch of my beautiful fat ass for some guy whom we don’t even know is trustworthy!” but I guess that’s why I don’t star in my own young adult fairy tale story. I’d most likely be the evil queen and keep a harem of pretty boys to abuse, come to think of it, and all the sensitive little princesses will hate me.
Also, the characters are pretty bland. The author tries to do something interesting by pairing up Reena with Pat, but I don’t see the chemistry between these two and I also don’t see how these two would get anywhere with their so-called relationship. Josh is a familiar character, and there is nothing about him that is too surprising.
Briar Rose is not a badly written book at all, but I still have some problems with it at the end of the day because much of this story happens because… well, just because they can. The heroine is happy to sacrifice everything and anything for some guy she barely knows, and she gets all “I thought you were my friends!” in order to make sure that her friends stay in the bus with her as the bus speeds towards the ravine in front of them. I suppose teenage girls do do such things in real life because boys can make them silly that way, but in this story, lives are on the line. It’s hard for me to be okay with such things without a good reason for them to happen.