Sunday, January 11, 2009
Janette Rallison's My Fair Godmother
by Katie Parker
Marcia's letting me step in and blog today with a review of Janette Rallison's latest book for young adults. Thanks, Marcia! It's great to be here!
How many times can I use the word “delightful” in one book review? My Fair Godmother, Janette Rallison’s latest book for young adults, just might drive me to set a personal record. It’s one delightful book.
No, the title isn’t a typo or a misprint. It really is “My FAIR Godmother.” This is because the fairy godmother in question--Chrysanthemum Everstar, or Chrissy for short--is actually still in training. As a magical godmother, right now she’s just fair. And while her wisdom does sometimes show itself in astonishing ways, she’d rather be out shopping than carefully listening to the wishes of her clients. Which is why, when Savannah’s boyfriend dumps her right before prom and starts dating her sister instead, and Savannah feels small and lost and like she’s missing all the pieces to a happy life, the minute Savannah tries to express her longings in words her godmother, Chrissy takes them all at face value and dumps her in the Middle Ages. And Savannah discovers that what she thought she wanted really wasn’t what she wanted at all.
Savannah’s heartfelt desire to have a prince take her to prom gets her whisked to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella and then as Snow White. Actually, she doesn’t want a literal prince so much as she wants a caring and charming young man who would treat her as if he were a prince...but that’s not exactly what she says, so that’s not exactly what her “fair” godmother grants her. Once she manages to escape from these fairy tales--and some rather disappointing princes--Savannah tries to explain to her “fair” godmother what she really meant about having a prince take her to the prom.
And that’s when one of the guys from school is whisked back to the Middle Ages instead, with the task of becoming a prince so he can take Savannah to the prom. Needless to say, he isn’t too happy with her.
And that’s all really just the beginning of the story.
I just have to say that the whole story was plain delightful. It’s got your typical happy-but-insecure teenage narrator, going through typical teenage anguish over boys and sisters and proms and bikini tops and so forth (you’ll have to read about the bikini top yourself). And then you’ve got your standard fairy-tale-type story with slave girls dreaming of rescue by handsome princes, where magic is real and valiant knights slay dragons and all those kinds of things. Then you throw them together through the efforts (or non-efforts) of a wise fairy godmother lacking in maturity and common sense...and, of course, you have a strong writer like Janette Rallison doing all the real work...and you get one delightful, hilarious, thoughtful, and even dramatic novel that young adults everywhere are sure to love.
At first I wondered about this seeming departure by Rallison from traditional young adult fiction into fantasy writing, but it’s really not as much of a departure as it may seem on the surface. Because Savannah is still like any other twenty-first century teen who’s had her heart ripped out and desperately wants reassurance of her own worth. She’s still a modern-day teen, and readers can still relate to her. It’s just that her story takes some unexpected turns when magical creatures start appearing in her bedroom. (But really, how often do things ever turn out the way any of us expect?)
So I’ve reached the conclusion that “delightful” is a great way to describe this book. I laughed all the way through it; my notes that I made as I read are peppered with profound interjections like “Ha!” and “Hee hee hee.” Other things I noted frequently were Chrissy’s occasional words of wisdom to Savannah that helped her see that she was going to need to show some strength of her own, rather than sit and wait for Prince Charming to rescue her and make everything all right.
And the plotline--well, fantasy worlds allow lots of room for convoluted and unanticipated plot turns. For instance, we could suddenly learn that a person we thought was a person isn’t actually a person at all, but is actually a goat. Or the goat might be a person. Magic, used carefully as a story element, can allow all kinds of interesting twists and turns in a story. (It’s possible that I am actually a goat.)
Even without the magical elements, exactly how the story would work out kept me guessing until the end. This was a very fun book to read, and I’m not even (quite) young enough to be part of the targeted audience. I’m sure younger readers will love it all the more. Did I mention that it’s a delightful book?