What if one piece of your favorite Disney movie changed? What if that little change was vital to the entire story? What if the movie you once loved was suddenly entirely new and wonderful?
This is the concept behind the Twisted Tales. The tales are Disney branded so they use all the favorite Disney characters including animal sidekicks like Flounder and other minor characters like Tinkerbell. The tales are very different from your average twisted fairytale because they are quite literally twisting the Disney movies rather than the old classic tales. They take one question (ex. What if Wendy first traveled to Never Land with Captain Hook?) and tell a tale off of the single question. Three authors contribute to the series and so far, there are twelve books.
In the past I have read and reviewed As Old As Time, Once Upon a Dream, Unbirthday, Part of Your World, A Whole New World, and So This is Love. Of these, my favorites have been As Old As Time (what if Belle's mother cursed the Beast?), Unbirthday (what if Wonderland was in peril and Alice arrived very, very late?), and my most recent read, What Once Was Mine (what if Rapunzel's mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?). While the series can sometimes be hit or miss, these three are pretty enjoyable books.
I have yet to read Reflection (what if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?), Mirror, Mirror (what if the Evil Queen poisoned the prince?), and Conceal, Don't Feel (what if Anna and Elsa never knew each other?) but I do have holds on these books and hope to be able to read and review them soon.
Go the Distance:
What if Meg had to become a Greek god? In Go the Distance, Meg has to complete a number of tasks similar to that which Heracles had to complete to prove himself to the gods in the first movie (but not like the twelve tasks he completed in service to Eurystheus to make up for the murder of his wife and children [which happened because of Hera]).
Go the Distance was definitely not one of my favorite books in the Twisted Tale series. It has, unfortunately, been a while since reading the book and I cannot recall all that I enjoyed and did not but I do remember struggling to finish the book.
In part, I likely struggled with the challenges of difference between true Greek myth and that which was in the book. Since reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians as a kid, I have been a huge fan of Greek and Roman myth. I took Latin for three years in high school, read Edith Hamilton's Mythology front to back multiple times, have taken a (terrible) mythology class at my local community college, and sometimes read about myths just for fun in my free time. So it is safe to say I have issues with the Disney version of Heracles.
That being said, the movie itself isn't bad. I don't hate the plot, the characters are funny and I, like most people who can enjoy a good Disney movie, love the Disney Hades.
Perhaps the book captured only what I didn't love about the movie, perhaps it had too many Greek mythology mistakes, perhaps it was too Middle Grade and not Young Adult enough for me. Whatever it was, the book simply didn't capture my attention and hold it like many of the other twisted tales have. I didn't fall for the characters. I wasn't excited about the plot. And often, I felt like I knew what was going to happen next.
Unfortunately, this Twisted Tale was a bit of a flop for me. While I would definitely suggest reading it if you are a Disney fan and enjoy the other Twisted Tales (it was likely more about taste than the book itself), it certainly wasn't my favorite.
Straight on 'Til Morning:
What if Wendy first traveled to Never Land with Captain Hook? Honestly, I think we can all relate to the decision Wendy makes early on in this book to make a deal with the villain of Never Land. Faced with being sent off to Ireland and leaving her childhood behind, Wendy tries desperately to escape to the only place she knows she'll be able to keep on dreaming. But to do so, she has to sell the one thing she has of value: Peter Pan's shadow.
This wasn't necessarily my favorite of the Twisted Tale books but I do admit to enjoying those that Baswell writes more so than most of the rest. Braswell tends to do an excellent job of capturing the spirit, mood, themes, and overall feel of each Disney movie so that as you read the book, you feel as though you are in the movies, only with a different storyline and a slightly older intended audience. Perhaps this is why I didn't enjoy the Peter Pan twist as much as the others. While I did enjoy threads of the plot and portions of her characters, the original Peter Pan movie is certainly not one of my favorites so the book that captured the essence of the movie didn't suit me as well.
One thing I do recall really enjoying was Wendy's love for writing. Braswell writes Wendy as an author. She has a giant imagination that creates the world of Never Land and she writes these things in her notebooks and shares them with her brothers. She seems to have a desire to continue to do this as a living but her parents want to squash this desire out of her. Women don't write in her time and though children are perfectly okay to have wild imaginations, young women are not. While not all of the storyline of her desire to be a writer is expressed, there are implied threads throughout the book and I liked this idea given my desire to be a female author. I am thankful to be living in a time where females can be authors (and many are) and where my parents challenge me to have a wild imagination.
What Once Was Mine
What if Rapunzel's mother drank a potion from the wrong flower? In What Once Was Mine, Liz Braswell examines what would have happened if Rapunzel's mother had drunk a potion from the moon drop flower instead of the sun drop flower. Instead of the child having long golden locks, she has long silver locks. Instead of being stolen away by Mother Gothel, Rapunzel is given to the villain by her parents so that the "goodwife" can raise her to manage her power to kill people with her magical hair in hopes that an accident won't happen again. Of course, as we all know, Mother Gothel is a villain and doesn't do what the parents expect.
A few things to know about the book:
First, the book is told as though a teenage boy is telling the story to his sister who has cancer. The story starts off with him sitting in the hospital with her and finishing watching the Disney movie. They pick up the book and he decides to tell it differently than normal but apparently, tells it expertly to the level a published writer would. I felt like this point of view was entirely unnecessary (though reading the author's note at the end made me understand why she did this). It added nothing to the book except length which can be annoying. Thankfully, the scenes between brother and sister were short (usually no more than a page or two) so it didn't bother me much.
Second, the story is much more intricate than the plot of Tangled. I do enjoy the movie Tangled (though, as with most Disney movies, it quickly gets boring if you watch it too many times). Braswell did a great job of following the plot to some degree earlier in the novel with variations because of the question (what happens if Rapunzel's mother drank from the moondrop flower?). In the beginning of the book, though Rapunzel generally sticks to the plot of the movie, Braswell introduces side stories that will come back later to complicate the plot. About halfway through the novel, the plot of the novel suddenly veers off in another direction.
(side note: the way it does this reminds me of my dog trying to change direction on the hardwood floors of our home and skidding, quickly trying to get her feet under her. It looks like she will crash into something but at the last minute she makes the turn and avoids disaster.)
The second half of the novel is gripping and beautifully written. I, as the reader, rarely knew what was coming next and was constantly rooting for both Rapunzel and her compatriots. I loved the addition of Gina, a wannabe thief, and daughter of a witch. I also appreciated Rapunzel's confusion at the world she had never been a part of (though I felt Braswell did take it too far when she switched names of animals). One of my favorite characters actually turned out to be the new villain based on real-life lady Elizabeth Bathory (seriously, check her out, she's like female Dracula). It was definitely one of my favorites and an excellent fairytale twist.