Author: Megan Spooner
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2017 (March 14)
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Retellings
I had wanted to read this for months….asked for it on Edelweiss: got denied. Tried to win it: lost every time. Waited in a long line on Overdrive: FINALLY GOT IT.
The cover is so gorgeous with the greens and golds and the color contrasts.
I had heard mixed reviews…some people loved it and some people were meh about it. I was nervous as I have noticed this is the year of Retellings (Beauty and the Beast being one of the biggest ones lately) and Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter kind of killed BATB retellings for me. But I heard from friends with similar taste as mine that it rocked.
So I took the plunge.
Yeva, known as Beauty by her doting father, spends her days at the Baronessa’s house, pretending to be enthralled by the latest gossip or idle conversation. Her sisters are loving, and one is betrothed, though Yeva cannot imagine ever being tied down. She always seems to be yearning, wanting more from life. When bad news comes, Yeva is horrified: her father has invested their fortune in a risky venture, and now they are penniless.
So the three pack up and move out to the hunting cabin in the woods. Before they leave, Yeva gets a proposal from Solmir, a handsome man but also the man her sister Asenka loves. She cannot marry him, though it would change their fortune immensely. Yeva is a bird that cannot be caged, but she thinks about what Solmir’s proposal might mean as they move to the wilderness and allow their father to resume his hunting for profit. He’s gone longer and longer…deeper and deeper into the woods, searching for prized mythical beasts that can bring the family profit.
While he’s gone, Yeva starts to hunt…pushing herself to become a good huntress and know the woods.
As their father comes back less and less often from the woods, Yeva’s hunting helps keep the food in supply. She enjoys the sounds of nature around her. One night, Yeva’s father comes home with madness in his eyes: he is hunting a beast whose head would fetch some major coin. But he looks deranged and insists on leaving almost right after returning. Yeva has a bad feeling. She begs her father to take her with him but he pushes her out of the way and goes back out into the stormy snow, intent on getting this beast.
Yeva decides she must go find her father after his faithful dog returns to the house alone. Before she leaves, though, Solmir comes and proposes to Yeva again, hoping she will allow her and her sisters to come back with him to the city. Yeva promises to marry him as long as he watches her sisters while she goes after her father…and that Solmir assists her with finding help for her mad father. Solmir agrees and goes back to the cabin, and Yeva goes to find her father.
She goes off to find her father, but when she finally comes to where she finds possessions belonging to her father, she finds he is dead, strewn about the snowy woods. She knows the Beast he was hunting must have killed him, but before she can get far, the Beast finds Yeva and takes her prisoner.
We know the Beast needs someone specific…we get to see some of his internal dialogue throughout the story. But what does he want with Yeva…and will she make it out of the Beast’s clutches alive…and will she ever see her sisters or Solmir again? Will Solmir keep his promise and take care of them while she is stuck and locked away?
But a mysterious voice calls out to her in the dark….maybe not all is lost…
Is It Classroom-Appropriate?
Yes. I really liked this retelling, it was fresh and new. It was definitely longer than I bought and a bit more detailed in the writing style, but the plot is interesting and it could make a great comparison to the traditional tale. There are definitely differences between the original and Hunted. While I can find moral lessons in the story, I really can’t find any material for discussion. It would be fun in a fairy tale unit…there is a strong message in the end that resonates long after the book is done.
So while I can see it used for a specific unit, I can’t find really many other uses for it besides outside reading. So this one is hard to rate for classroom use. I think I will give it ★★★☆☆, or in my Classroom Rating Scale:
Surprisingly. Hunted is on Lexile.com. It has a Lexile score of 1000L, which doesn’t surprise me. The sentence length and complexity is higher than many YA books. This one takes a patient reader for sure. Honestly, when I first started reading it, I thought I was in for another McKinley Rose Daughter situation, but after awhile you get used to the language and the pacing. It is recommended for 12-17, so I see no problem letting a 6th-7th grade reader give it a chance. However, I will emphasize that it’s not one I would give to reluctant readers; I would stick to ambitious readers only. It’s a long story. Nothing inappropriate, but it’s definitely a little heavier in its reading level.
I liked this one. I’ve read so many retellings, but this one is different enough to keep it apart. You’re constantly trying to figure out the puzzle while trying to understand Yeva as well. She’s unlike many characters: she makes smart choices and then impulsive ones. She’s ambitious but unsettled. She wants to see the world but also wants comfort and family. She is restless. Like many of us in real life. And that quality I found endearing.
I also loved the Beast…he is fighting against his humanity because he cannot bear to feel. I won’t go into too much detail, but I was quite satisfied with the story overall. Though it’s not going to be an “all-time” favorite, it’s one that I will remember and it will stay with me.
So I give Hunted ★★★★☆. Or in my TeacherofYA rating system…
Which means y’all should read this one! I was pleasantly surprised! And it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised! It was also nice to finally read this book after all this time wanting to read it. I wouldn’t mind owning s copy of this one for the classroom library: fairy tales, even retellings, are classic and make for good literature. Almost everyone has read the story or seen the Disney Classic (or recent live action movie), so the story is familiar. But it’s always cool to see what people do with the familiar to make it fresh/new/different for a new generation or audience.
*BTW, just finished Flame in the Mist and wanted to write that review now, but I needed to get a couple older reviews written first. My review of Flame will be up soon, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Hope you guys are doing well! Whatcha readin?