Dearest - Alethea Kontis

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers for sending me an ARC of the book to review.

One note should be made before I proceed with this review – I hadn’t read the other two books prior to this one, so needless to say it was a bit unusual to go diving right into the world of the Woodcutter sisters without having any prior introduction to them. I assumed from the summary that this book could be read as a stand-alone, more or less, and to some degree this is true, but I would strongly recommend looking at the other two first and read the series in its “proper” order. I myself will be going back and reading the other two in the near future, after which I’ll come back to this one and see just how much I missed from the lack of a clear and general picture.

What this book succeeds in doing is being a sweet, very light novel that adapts several existing stories, such as the Seven Swans while also incorporating characters like the swan princess Odette and the Darling children, into its own unique storyline. I haven’t come across any book where the main protagonist was named after a day of the week, and for there to be seven of them is even more interesting. Friday is easy to like – she doesn’t act irrationally and her level of sweetness is realistic without being an exaggeration. It’s easy to root for her and to smile when she’s content and frown when something’s bothering her. A strong protagonist is a foundation for any good book and to have that in “Dearest” is a pleasure to see.

For better or for worse, that was really all I found this book to be: a lovely retelling of a story that fits on top of existing layers of well-developed characters and other plotlines running simultaneously. It did have its flaws in some cases, the main one was perhaps the lack of development in Friday and Tristan’s relationship – I would’ve loved to read more that went beyond the simple “love at first sight” kind of approach, as good as that was (again, it’s impressive how well this book managed to work with the “standard clichés” of the literary world). It wasn’t anything terribly original, I must say, and might perhaps be a bit forgetful some time down the road. But during that time when you’re holding “Dearest” in your hands you will find yourself slowly creep into its world and truly live its story. The writing is simple and fitting with the tone and characters, yet there’s just that right touch of sweetness that you can’t help but respond to. A truly sweet tale that is a perfect pick-me-up for anyone.