Goodreads: Kill Me Softly
Published: April 2012
Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.
In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.
But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.
Kill Me Softly is a thoughtful, romantic book that looks the darkness of fairy tales in the face and combats it with all their hope. The story follows fifteen-year-old Mira as she attempts to track down the secrets of her past—and discovers they are far more implausible than she ever dreamed. She, and many of the inhabitants of the city where she was born, are “cursed” to live fairy tale lives, following in the footsteps of princesses, heroes, or villains.
Those who follow Pages Unbound will notice I reviewed Shannon Hale’s Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends last Monday and complained about a similar story premise, explaining it did not make sense. Be relieved to know that Sarah Cross handles the “born to fill a fairy tale role” plot much more skillfully. It actually works in Kill Me Softly because the roles are random, not handed down from parent to child, and each character is only cursed to do something similar to their fairy tale predecessor, not relive their story verbatim. For instance, a “Snow White” will probably eat a poisoned apply and fall into an enchanted sleep, but she may be able to skip the part where she lives in an adorable woodland cottage with a bunch of dwarves. Or the Huntsman might decide to actually kill her. Oops.
Kill Me Softly, being YA, is also able to confront the darkness of the original Grimm fairy tales head-on. Cross discusses, not just the gruesomeness or violence that characterize many stories (like Cinderella’s stepsisters chopping up their feet to fit into the glass slipper) but also the dark mentality that being cursed into a role can bring. There are characters who are proud to be villains, or who use their curses as excuses to be terrible people. There are characters who are simply twisted, who want to kiss sleeping girls not because they are in love or just want to save them from an enchanted sleep but because, well, they want to take advantage. Fairy tales are not always pretty, and Cross makes sure Mira learns that—and then tackles it.
After learning she is cursed, Mira has a lot to think about: destiny vs. free will, true love vs. playacting, the bad parts of fairy tales vs. the good. Mira is spunky, and immediately enters militant mode, struggling against the idea that the most important parts of her fate, like whom she falls in love with, are predetermined. Some other reviewers have found Mira’s attitude disagreeable, which is understandable. Personally, I found it plausible, considering her situation. And when she butts heads, not just with the idea of pre-destiny, but with a certain irritating young man, I even found it funny. (And, again, believable. I don’t think I would take his consistent attitude without eventually giving back a bit of my own!)
Of course, Mr. Obnoxious turns out to be a potential love interest. The weird part: two other guys do, as well. We don’t have a love triangle in Kill Me Softly; we have a love square. All three guys are given an explanation for being suitors, and they are mostly good ones (not just some ridiculous excuse that Mira is just such a great catch that guys are always fawning over her!) There is no explanation, however, for why Mira falls hardest , in instalove, for the one guy who is clearly the worst pick. Fortunately, readers have the rest of the book, and two other guys, to encourage their hopes that Mira will change her mind.
Overall, Kill Me Softly is a stellar fairy tale retelling. It is original and modern, while maintaining the romance, magic, and darkness of its source tales. Cross will draw readers in with her fast –paced writing and biting dialogue, and then they will stay for the unforeseeable plot twists and the hope that Myra will find her happily ever after, in both romance and free will. Recommended.