{FTF Review} SWEETLY by Jackson Pearce

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O P E N I N G   L I N E:

That's why they were among the thick trees to begin with--to find her.  The three of them trudged along, weaving through the hemlocks and maples, long out of sight of their house, their father's happy smiles, their mother's soft hands. 
(pg. 1, US Hardcover Edition)

I probably shouldn't be revealing this, but while I own most of Jackson Pearce's novels, this is the first one I've actually read.  I've been sitting on SWEETLY and SISTERS RED on purpose, waiting for it to once again be Fairy Tale Fortnight.  I'm excited to launch the week by reviewing something by such a talented author. 

After reading SWEETLY, I discovered that there's some amount of cross-over with SISTERS RED, but I never felt like I was missing anything while reading.  In fact, after finding this out (because I rarely look up information on books before I read them in order to be surprised), I discovered that it's highly possible FATHOMLESS builds into Pearce's world, too, when I erroneously envisioned all of her novels as stand-alones.  I'm blown away by how these unique worlds will tie together and can't wait to see what Pearce comes up with!

Have some candy at your side when reading SWEETLY!  As the title implies, this novel will tickle your sweet tooth.  After Ansel and Gretchen's stepmother throws them out, the siblings' car breaks down in a forgotten town and they wind up living with a candy maker named Sophia.  Pearce spins together images of delicious-sounding candies; I wanted to eat each and every one based on the descriptions alone!

Even Sophia's house is described in such a way that I envisioned it as a real-life version of a gingerbread house if you were to buy one and live in it yourself:

"It's a cottage, tucked away into a nest of mountainous oak trees that are draped with Spanish moss.  The exterior is a cinnamon shade of wood, with a stone chimney that's being devoured by ivy.  Flower boxes line the white-trimmed windows, filled with what looks like the peppermint plants our mom used to grow.  The door is arced and licorice red and sits behind a covered front porch that holds several rocking chairs.  A wooden sign with Coca-Cola advertisements on either end hangs from the porch's mottled tin roof; pale violet lettering in its center reads KELLYS' CHOCOLATIER.  The entire thing looks imaginary, like a gingerbread house in a quite corner of a hot paradise."  

(pg. 22, US Hardcover Edition)

I knew SWEETLY had something to do with the tale of Hansel & Gretel; I wasn't expecting the book to take place in today's world.  I love the way Pearce played with elements from the original tale and wove in fantastic origins of her own.  I wasn't expecting the paranormal turn that was later revealed, but once it was, I was trying as hard as Gretchen to piece everything together before something bad happens.  Pearce deftly winds together clues and red herrings, leaving readers guessing at what is to come, never quite knowing who to trust.

Gretchen was probably my favorite character in the novel.  She starts off so shy and timid, scarred from the "witch" that stole her twin sister away when they were children.  When she decides to take control of her own destiny, she blossoms: She's able to survive on her own without having her older brother shadow her, and even able to fall in love.  She even finds a sister in Sophia, and slowly, she moves on from the tragedy of her past, only to find herself spiraling into the new horrors of her future.

SWEETLY was well worth the wait, and I'm even more excited about FATHOMLESS than I already was (Mermaids!!!!!).  Excuse me while I leave you to start reading SISTERS RED!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:
I love the way both of Jackson Pearce's "fairy tale" novels feature optical illusions. [See SISTERS RED, right]  I'm hoping FATHOMLESS will as well when the final cover art is revealed!

On first glance, you see creepy, twisted trees and a silhouetted house with the lights serving as a beacon in the otherwise dark forest.  
Then you look closer and see the way the tree branches are forming a sinister face.  
In the windows of the house, mysterious vines (or something) hang down at odd angles.  The chimney and roof slant in such a way that if you look at it fast, you see a skeleton sitting on top of the roof (I did, at least!)

Plus, it's PURPLE.  To me, there's no better color!

I also really like the S and the way it twists in on itself, a broken infinity sign.

Even the spine on this one is creepy, the purple peeping out of the black shadows to say something is lurking if you pull this book off the shelf...

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Jackson Pearce
Release Date: Out August 23, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Received: Christmas Present!


As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.
Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.
Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.


  1. I have all of her books, too, and this was also the first (and only) I've read so far. I wanted to read Sisters Red for this year's FTF but couldn't fit it in. Soon, hopefully.
    CANNOT WAIT for Fathomless!

  2. I bought Sweetly a little while back but havne't had a chance to read it tough. I think is sounds fantastic... :) And Hansel & Gretle with a PN twist? Yes Please!!!! I'm so glad to see that you enjoyed it, can't wait to start now!


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