Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Listen up: Tender Morsels

Now that I'm finally caught up on my Printz Honor books from last year, I will say this: Not only is the world of YA literature a better place because Margo Lanagan is in it, but I want to know what goes on in her head all day.

<--- Australian cover, because I like it British cover, because it rocks and says, "This girl lost her pearl earring while she was kicking ass and taking names." --->

Tender Morsels (that's a link to the print book, but this review is of the audio version) is a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, "Snow White and Rose Red." Only you know that when Margo Lanagan touches a story, it turns to gold. She roots the story in brutality; the Snow White character, Branza, and her Rose Red sister, Urdda, are conceived via incest and rape, respectively. Despite the violence others visit on her, Liga, their mother, is kind and wants a peaceful life for Branza and Urda. With the help of a little magic, she wakes up one morning in a brighter, gentler version of her town, and raises her girls to their teen years. Then Urdda passes through a portal to an alternate version of her town. Time flows differently in this new world, and when Urda comes back, she finds that years have passed in the life she knew.

Since the Snow White and Rose Red story wouldn't be complete without the bear and the dwarf, Lanagan tells their stories and makes them so much more than just the cranky man and the cursed prince. There's a witch involved, but she's not the evil witch of most fairy tales. These are complex people with lives and loves whose stories are told with the most amazing turns of phrase. It's a book that's not afraid to address all of the emotions that make us human, even the ugly ones.

Listen to a clip here.

The readers, Anne Flosnik and Michael Page, alternate the male and female voices with accents that make you feel like you're lost in a fairy tale land, wandering forests and fields. There's such a huge range of emotion in this book that it really speaks to their talents that these readers kept me captivated through both the dark and light parts of the tale. They convey wisdom from the older characters and love and wonder from the younger ones. It's a long book, 12 CDs around 45-60 minutes each, but I'm glad I listened to it. When listening, we can't help but substitute our own voices, and the audio version of Tender Morsels really helped me imagine the brutal, amazing world Lanagan created.

Review copy courtesy of Brilliance Audio.