I have mixed feelings about UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn. I started this novel expecting an interesting fairy tale retelling. The book certainly delivered that but in a way that I didn’t expect. I’m intrigued enough by the story that I’m interested to know what happens next, but it could be a very long time before that next book comes across my lap or through my headphones.
What I liked most about UnEnchanted is that this fairy tale retelling was told as a unique present-day, urban fantasy story instead of as a straight up fantasy or science fiction story, both of which seem to be the norm for most retellings these days. The book was very light and fun, though heavy on the melodrama and cheese.
A WriterAlina Book Review
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I will admit that I had an extremely difficult time suspending my disbelief of the circumstances, the actions, and immaturity of the first chapter of UnEnchanted. So many disastrously dramatic and cheesy things happened to and around the main character that I really had a hard time taking the story seriously. I kept telling myself that “this is probably meant to be funny.” By the end of the first chapter I was ready to stop the book (I was listening to it) and move on to the next story. But then I decided that the book should be quick to finish and that perhaps I could write an interesting book review for it.
I’m actually glad that I decided to finish the book because once I adjusted my expectations of the novel, it wasn’t as bad, and it turned out to be interesting in the end. The concept of UnEnchated is actually a brilliant one, and I commend the author for tackling such a fun idea. The execution, on the other hand, was a bit too over the top for me. I guess if I had walked into the story expecting that it’s supposed to be cheesy and funny and not really all that serious, I think I would have felt differently about UnEnchanted.
This summary was taken from goodreads.com
Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated; until she saves her crush’s life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her its next fairytale victim.
To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.
The Story and It’s Delivery
UnEnchanted is told in the Mina’s third-person perspective. One thing I can say about the author is that she was pretty consistent about staying in Mina’s perspective and not doing a lot of head hopping, something that happens a lot with less experienced writers who write in the third-person perspective.
My biggest gripe was with the way that this story was told: with a heavy coats of cheese. The immature actions of the teens reminded me more of being in middle school rather than in high school. I don’t remember any boys in my high school days wanting to scare the girls because of a thunderstorm or a quarter of someone’s grade riding on a paper written about a field-trip to a baking factory. Yes, it was totally obvious to me that the author was trying to set up the story or create an ambiance, but all of these situations screamed “middle school” days.
There were glimmers of maturity in the novel, like when Mina talks to her mother about being strong enough to not run away from her destiny or the aspects of the story where Mina struggled with her attraction to the hottest boy in school. The way that Mina handled herself at the climax of the book was also much more mature than the rest of the novel would imply. This was part of the book’s saving grace.
The language used in the novel was pretty simple and straightforward. To a certain extent it was almost to simple – it gave me the impression that the author thinks that teens are a lot more immature than they actually are. But the nice thing is that there’s no sex, senseless violence, or foul language in the novel, leading me to the conclusion that this book is best read by younger readers.
To be sure the only character of any substance and who changes at all during the course of the story is Mina herself. Sure everyone else has their “quirks,” which many writers seem to think substitute for personality, but there wasn’t much there. Mina fits into the ordinary, self-effacing, “I-don’t-think-I’m-pretty” category of female character. She thinks she has bad luck but only says that because she doesn’t understand why certain strange things happen around her. Of course she finds out by the end that, when she needs to be, she can be strong and heroic.
None of the other characters really stand out by themselves. Mina’s best friends Nan is fun and acts confident, but she never really gets the chance to show Mina or the reader that she can actually be a reliable sidekick. That’s too bad, really, because Mina needs another strong character to follow her or even complement her. Not even Harry Potter faces all of his obstacles alone.
All of the boys in the story are paper thin as well, even though Brody is nice and concerned –painted as the perfect boyfriend. That’s all he’s got going for him though, which isn’t much, but to the character’s credit, he doesn’t get enough screen time to get much more. Jared (the other male sidekick) is good looking and mysterious, and Mina suspects that he’s a Fae. Unfortunately that’s not so much to work with as far as a character is concerned. Too bad.
It seems to me that Chanda Hahn spent a lot of time and effort trying to make the world feel like a modern 21st Century world. Honestly, I’m not sure if she succeeded to do much more than date the book. She talks a lot about kids talking and texting on cell phones and using Twitter. We don’t actually know where Mina’s family is living – just some random town – but apparently a small enough town that the high school still has “homeroom.”
There is a lot of discussion about people having tech and cell phones and about Mina’s lack thereof. But I’m not convinced that this is done for the right reasons (or at least reasons that are obvious to the audience). Could her lack of tech really only be because Mina’s family is poor? I can think of all kinds of reasons to not have tech if you’re cursed to live out stories by the Brother’s Grimm, but I want to know why Hahn made such a big deal that she had to mention it repeatedly through the novel.
UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn is advertised to teen readers, but I feel that it is sorely misplaced. This is a book for middle grade readers, not YA. The story is light, funny, and fairly straightforward and easy to follow. The main character has just the right amount of development to entertain a younger audience. I would recommend UnEnchanted to my 11 year-old niece before ever recommending it to a high school teen or anyone older.
Have you ever read UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn or any of Chana Hahn’s other self-published books? If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I hope that I inspired you to pick up UnEnchanted. I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.
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