What genre does a book like A LONG, LONG SLEEP by Anna Sheehan fall into? Is it a fairy tale? Is it sci-fi/futuristic? Is it post-dystopian? Is it medical? Is it something else all together? A LONG, LONG SLEEP is all of this and more. First and foremost, it is a book about a teenager named Rose—and teenager is used in the loosest of terms due to the fact that her parents put her in stasis for over sixty years (and several other times before she hit the age of sixteen, no less). The novel starts off with a SLEEPING BEAUTY spin, with Rose being pulled out of stasis and faced with the dashing teen who awakened her. The way Sheehan describes stasis reminds me of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, only the ramifications for being put under for so long are much more severe in Rose’s world. Take a look at the first page (from the e-ARC edition; changes may have been made):
…When the electric-blue seascape I was trying to hold on to was interrupted, not by a hand but by the feeling of lips on mine, I was startled. I sucked in a breath through my nose and sat bolt upright, knocking my head against my supposed rescuer. I couldn’t see. Everything was dark and painful, as if I had just opened my eyes into a bright light after days in the dark.
See what I mean? There are so many things going on in that one paragraph. How can this book possibly encompass one genre?
Rose emerges into a world that has recovered from “the dark times,” a dystopic-sounding era brought about by illness. Everyone she knew and loved is dead. She herself very well might have been as well, if her parents hadn’t left her in stasis for so long. At first, it’s hard to connect with Rose as a character because she doesn’t have depth and can be annoying, but as A LONG, LONG SLEEP delves deeper into her psyche, horrible truths come out that make readers realize why she’s such a damaged character. She’s been through so much more than most literary characters in YA. For one thing (and this is no secret, so it’s not a spoiler), Rose’s parents often stuck her in stasis growing up. She never questioned it before, but is only now beginning to realize the neglect she went to and the way her parents abused her throughout her life. She is emotionally and physically scarred, and has a lot of trouble adjusting to life, especially since she was cloistered as a child and must now navigate the world on her own.
Rose is constantly haunted by all that she has lost, including that of her true love Xavier, who grew up without her. At one point in her life, she was older than him and watched him grow. She was put under stasis so often, that eventually, they were the same age, and then he was older. And then he grew up and suffered through the dark times alongside her parents while she remained in stasis, alone and forever youthful. She has trouble forging new relationships now despite the way Bren, the teenager who discovered and awakened her, takes her under his wing. She goes to school for the first time and in introduced to crazy slang and new technology that’s foreign to her. One of her classmates, Otto, is a well-written secondary character that readers will be clamoring to learn more about. He’s truly amazing, and it’s easy to embrace him as we delve more into what makes him tick. He adds another sci-fi touch to the novel with his back story (which IS spoilery, so I won’t describe it here) and his unique way of communicating with other characters.
The novel’s ending will blow readers away. I’m good at putting the puzzle pieces together well before I get to the climax, and even I was flabbergasted by many realizations. The ending left me a little shattered. I would love to see Sheehan write another book in this world and go into more depth with areas that were only briefly touched upon. Even if A LONG, LONG SLEEP remains a stand-alone, it is still a one-of-a-kind fairy tale entry, darker and grittier than most in the genre and impossible not to love.
The cover reminds me a lot of BRIAR ROSE by Jane Yolen, another unique, gritty SLEEPING BEAUTY novel (It revolves around the Holocaust). Take a look to the right and tell me you don’t agree. Yolen’s cover is much darker in color and focuses on the thorns of the rose. Sheehan’s is dreamier, with white lighting and brighter roses. The rose is the focus, not the thorns. I like the way the thorns are reaching up from the bottom and wrapping around the word “SLEEP.” This is very obviously a SLEEPING BEAUTY novel. The cover—and title—leave little guesswork. While it would be nicer to have a darker cover more reminiscent of Yolen’s, it’s still a book that will sit proudly on anyone’s fairy tale shelf. (What, I’m the only one crazy enough to have multiple shelves on my bookcase just for that…? ^^;;;)
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]