Review: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison (Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2015)

” . . . you must journey. You must experience. Or you must die.”

Most of us know the fairy tale of the girl in the tower with the super long hair.  The main stories tell of a girl baby who is stolen from her parents as payment/punishment for her father stealing rampion from the witch’s garden.  The witch raises the baby girl in a tower where the girl’s hair grows preposterously long and acts as the mechanism for the witch to come and go from the tower.  Then a prince spies the tower, climbs the hair and meets the girl . . . and of course they fall in love.  The witch takes her revenge on the pair, but ultimately they find a happy ending.

It’s a story that begs for more to the telling.  And many writers and movie makers have sought to do just that.  Now debut author Megan Morrison provides us her own take on the Rapunzel tale . . . and a new world of fairy tales in the bargain.  In Ms. Morrison’s story, we start right in the thick of things, with Rapunzel confronting an uninvited guest who has come to her tower.  This Rapunzel fears the outside world and all the terrible things and people in it who might harm her.  Safer and better to stay with  her Witch where she is happy and loved and well protected.  But then her interloper says he’s not a prince and he tells her things that don’t make sense.  That a prince visited and cut her hair.  That she is responsible for hurting a fairy.  The boy, called Jack, seems to know things that she can’t remember.   Despite not being able to remember, Rapunzel follows Jack down out of her tower, certain he means to harm her Witch.  But once on the ground, she finds that everything  is not as she expected.   Rapunzel strikes a bargain to go on a quest in order to protect her Witch from harm. She’s going to leave that tower and journey far across Tyme with Jack as her companion.  That journey will be filled with all sorts of new adventures, new discoveries, and new skills.    Ultimately Rapunzel will come into her own . . . and make her own decisions about who she will be and how she will act.

Oh the cynic in me was skeptical at first with this story–Rapunzel has never been my favorite fairy tale heroine and despite Disney’s Tangled and Shannon Hale’s graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge, I was skeptical as to whether an entire novel about this long-haired girl who lives in a tower would keep my interest.  And there are echoes of Disney’s Tangled at first here–because we see a girl addressing a stranger whose come to her tower, certain that her Witch is good and tries to keep her safe.  But get a few pages in and the similarities fall away. This Rapunzel has a lot less knowledge about the world at large and no desire to leave the safety of her tower.  It takes an intervention from Jack and a fairy visitor to begin to change that.  And I will confess I still wasn’t certain I’d like this Rapunzel very much.  She was being pushed and pulled by others in the plot out of her tower and into her quest.  But then . . . that’s the essence of Rapunzel at the beginning of the story.  She is a pawn rather than an active participant.  She hasn’t been given the agency to make choices for herself.   This is a coming of age journey of dramatic proportions for Rapunzel.  She’ll discover her own bravery and kindness.  She’ll discover truths about the world–both good and bad.  She’ll encounter the true story of her past, the tragedy of the bargain that led her to be in the tower in the first place.  And she’ll discover who her wonderful Witch really is.  By the end of this story, Rapunzel is the one taking the actions and making the choices.  And what she chooses will likely surprise some readers.

Megan Morrison’s debut novel tackles tried and true fairy tales and reinvents them once again.  Her world of Tyme, which her bio says she’s been developing since 2003 is richly detailed, with plenty of world building touches  that make it clear how well she knows the land her protagonists are traversing.  Despite her attention to the setting and elements of of Tyme, this story is character driven, with Rapunzel crafted as a complex, and very human girl who must struggle with the fact that most of the life she’s known has been a lie.  Facing not only this tragedy, but the discovering the strong young woman underneath who can make friends, go on adventures and even regain part of her family, gives us a solid and substantial Rapunzel.  One who ultimately makes some startling decisions that impact us precisely because of what Rapunzel has gained in her journey.

That all said, this will likely not be a good starting place for younger readers just getting into longer chapter books.  The plotting is involved, the characters complex and the narrative is meaty fare.  This is a book that sophisticated  younger readers and older tween and teen fans of fantasy will devour happily.  (I’ve already several of my hungry readers love this book)  Great for fractured fairy tale readers who enjoyed to see these stories fleshed out and sometimes turned inside out.  Ms. Morrison has a deft hand for combining the profound with lighter moments of frivolity and humor and it creates a tremendously satisfying ride.  I’m also glad to know that this is only the first story we’ll see about the world of Tyme and its inhabitants.  The author plans to bring us more stories from this world, and I’ll look forward to seeing them!

Publisher:Arthur A. Levine

Publication Date: April 2015

ISBN13:   9780545638265

Recommended for grades 4 and up.


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 28, 2015, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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