Author: Shonna Slayton
Publisher: Entangled Teen, 2016 (Oct 4)
Genre: YA Fairy Tale Retellings, YA Fantasy, YA Historical Fiction
**I received an ARC of this book free from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for an honest review**
I have to say, though, that it was different than I expected…
Briarly Rose Jenny (or Briar for short because that name is a mouthful!) is an Irish immigrant living in Sunrise Valley during the 1890s. Her Mam and Da dead, Briar must care for her twin brothers and little sister. She works at the mill as a Spinner girl, the only decent paying job, and she knows she must become independent before her seventeenth birthday. Right now, Nanny (Mrs. Prudence) takes care of the children during the week while Briar stays at a boardinghouse in town, and on the weekends Briar rushes home to spend time with her siblings.
She was previously engaged to Wheeler, another factory boy, who had dreams of returning to the Old Country…which is exactly what Briar’s Mam always wanted for her family. But Wheeler strayed to Sadie, another Mill girl, and left Briar with a broken heart and broken plans. Only Henry Prince can make her laugh: Briar does not want to get involved with him, though, because his family is notorious for living and dying in Sunrise Valley. With her seventeenth birthday on the horizon only two weeks away, and her frame in the Mill constantly slowing her down, Briar fears her family will be torn apart.
Suddenly, Nanny disappears and another takes her place. A strange woman that seems to come from nowhere and insists Mrs. Prudence left for an emergency. Then Henry, the dependable one, tells her he’s leaving for a trip across the ocean. While Briar tries to adjust, a mysterious peddled comes to town and offers Briar a beautiful wood Spindle: just the thing to fix her finicky frame. Since she cannot depend on Nanny or Henry, Briar must make a decision to change her own luck.
What Briar doesn’t realize is that the story of Sleeping Beauty was not just a fairy tale…and this time, there isn’t going to be a happy ending…
Is It Classroom-Appropriate?
Yes. I’m having a good streak with appropriate YA literature lately. As Spindle is set in the 1890s, it is rich with historically accurate references like the Women’s Temperance movement and the invention of the bicycle. The Author’s Note in the back mentions all the materials used in cresting the story…it sheds light on the potato famine that brought the Irish here to the US in the first place, and the discrimination against them once they arrived. NINA, or No Irish Need Apply, was a real problem when it came to finding jobs. Speaking of jobs, the life of a Mill girl is examined in detail, and I could see this book used more for its historical references than its fairy-tale ones. I could see a history unit using this book. It’s cute and it’s light…and I could see some activities that could even be done in the middle grade level.
Though most YA is located through Lexile.com for its scores, it tends to leave out A LOT. Despite the fact that Spindle isn’t listed, I would feel confident recommending this book for ages 11 and up. It’s not too advanced for a middle grader, and it’s clean enough to allow younger readers access to it. I would happily let my 12 year old niece read it…if only she liked historical fiction or fairy-tale retellings. Unfortunately, she’s on a horror kick and would probably throw this out the window.
This one is tricky for me. I kept waiting for the climax to build as I continued to read, and it didn’t really get moving until about 70% of the way through. There was a TON of historical information, but sometimes I felt it took away from the fairy-tale aspect. It seemed like 70% historical fiction, 30% fairy-tale retelling, to be honest. And I don’t have a problem with that…but I was just expecting a little more focus on the Sleeping Beauty aspect.
I’m torn between a three and four star rating: the writing was good, and the story was ok, but it’s not something that I’d rave about. I would normally go with 3.5, but in our lovely rating world, there are no half stars (and there really should be!). So because of this, I’m going to round it to ★★★★☆, because I usually give three to the books I have to push through. I was captivated by the story, but when I realized what I was getting was all I was going to get, I was a little disappointed
So, in short: a great historical read, but don’t read it simply for the fairy tale: there’s not enough fairy tale to tide you over. Would use in the classroom, but only for its historical benefits. If you like period lit, then I recommend it for you.