Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Review of 'Ash' by Malinda Lo

"In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother.  Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her.  In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do.  When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change.  Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa.  Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-- and her desire to live.  But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is abut the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief."

This book is a sort of a retelling of the classic story Cinderella.  The resemblance stops as soon as Ash is with her stepmother and stepsisters and after her father dies.  But this isn't a bad thing-- just a difference I noticed.

This book took a little while to get into.  My professor who taught my literacy education class let me borrow it last semester and between being quite busy and not finding the beginning super appealing, I let it sit for a while.  I'll let you know that it does get better... I'll explain.

I think the part that kind of prevented me from getting into the book right away was Ash's wall of grief.  I understand that she lost her mother and that's a really difficult thing to go through, especially when you're quite young.  But the thing that bothered me was that her grief didn't seem to lessen or become more nuanced as she got older.  She was just as grief-stricken as the day her mother died.  I don't know anything about losing a parent, but I've lost close family members.  The closest person to me who has passed away way was my Uncle.  It was a really hard grieving process, but it's been years since the day we had to let him go and the day of the funeral.  There is pain and sadness, but it's not the same pain and sadness as a few years ago.  With Ash, her pain and sadness doesn't change very much.  I think her grief was a dramatic one, almost.  It was a grief I didn't have access to which made it hard to get into this book.

Once I was a ways into the book, I wasn't so bothered by the grief... that is, I think I stopped taking it so seriously.  What bothered me next was how helpless Ash was and how quick she was to run away.  Her age also bothered me.  I know that at some point in the book, she turned into a girl who was closer to being an adult... I estimate sixteen or eighteen.  But I had to keep reminding myself that Ash is around this age.  So hers and Kaisa's relationship felt really weird to me.  Kaisa had this maturity about her that I kept thinking that she was in her mid-twenties or even thirties.  I still wonder what she sees in Ash.  The relationship felt inappropriate because of the maturity each woman carried with her.  Kaisa had a lot of experience with the world and Ash just didn't.  I don't understand this relationship.

One thing that I appreciated were the hints of nuance to the stepsisters.  They weren't simply pure evil.  Sometimes they'd respond to Ash's kindness.  Ash brought the eldest stepsister, Ana, who is seeking marriage to preferably the Prince, but anyone will do, really.  Ash gave her a spell that's supposed to bring your true love to you or something like that.  Ana used it, although she didn't want to admit it.  You could tell she was more than mean.  She was a stuck character-- her mother needed her to marry because of the debts they had.  She didn't really have a choice of whether to marry or not.

I also thought the take on this story with the fairies was interesting.  Fairies were made out to be dangerous and while we never really see how dangerous they can be (we just hear about it), it added a little suspense because in the back of your mind, there was always the possibility of something bad happening because Ash was with a fairy.

I also appreciated that bisexuality or even being lesbian was treated normally.  Like we treat straight people in our society.  It's normal and okay.  No one had to mention it and no one talks about it.  It just stands out to readers because... it's normal, but we still spend a lot of time convincing people that it's as normal as being heterosexual.  Because when we come out in our society, people are often afraid to say who they are and straight people don't have to go through this.  In this society, it's okay and accepted by everyone to fall in love with someone who is the same sex as you.  And also someone who is not the same sex.  It's okay to love.

Overall, this was an okay read.  This is definitely meant for a younger audience, so it's possible that middle school or possibly early high school readers would eat up this book.

I give 'Ash':
Thanks for Reading!


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