This is one of those books that you'll never fully appreciate or understand unless you take the time to make it all the way through. I admit, at the beginning I could care less about everything that was going on. When we got a little bit of the magic involved, I was intrigued, but it was just enough to keep me reading, because the main character, Cassie, had far too many "smart" things to say and a one-track mind that frustrated me. In fact, it all went from "Blah~ Whatever" to "Okay, now you're REALLY ticking me off, girl! Just SHUT UP and enjoy yourself already! BAH! You're making this unpleasant when it should be MAGICAL! DX<" Yes, I had my fair share of complaints throughout this book. There are many criticisms that I have to give it, but those are all undermined by the praises that have come out of it as well. So, let's begin on that first, shall we!
Cassie, our main character. Okay, first off, she has quite the unusual life, and I admire her for being such a strong-willed girl, even if it makes her a little stupid at times. The idiotic things she does though, aren't of the kind of Stupid that is just that: STUPID. She's not so self-centered that you want to stab her in the face and rip off every last vestige of skin in the hopes that the pain will be bad enough without actually killing her so she can't suffer for the depth and heinousness of her stupidity. No, no, no. Cassie is NOT the Toilet (think of sparkling vampires and a Bimbo) type of stupid. She's a teenage girl, eighteen to be exact, and when her world gets thrown upside-down, she has her complaints! Now does she come off as kinda "blah" for me at first, while her world is still normal? Yeah, she does. Nothing much impresses me, but there's not much I dislike about her either. She exists for me for about the first 30 pages of the book, and I can deal with that. Then around the 30-page mark, the magic of this fairy tale rewrite begins, and your interest can't help but perk up. It's also shortly after this time that Cassie's world completely gets thrown upside down. And then that's where we get the rebuttals of a teenage girl just being torn completely out of her previous life and thrust into a completely new one.
Thinking back on it now, although I was upset at Cassie for being so serious about going back home and wanting things the way the were, can I really blame her? She was isolated and left in a place where her passion for life could no longer be followed, and where she had no company except for one magical being--which should be obvious: the Polar Bear King, also known as Bear. (Yes I wish I was joking. Don't get too flustered though. The name grows on you.) She wanted to go home. She didn't want to be forced into a magical contract. She had dreams, and she had passions. And who can blame her? Any one of us would feel the same way! Mind you, I would honestly love a chance to do what she was asked to do, to be who she was asked to be. I am a romantic, and I would jump at the opportunity to do these things! And that's saying a lot, since the Arctic? A place with no trees or mountains or greenery? Yeah. It's like an ugly wasteland to me. I'm a wood and rock type of girl. I can get pretty depressed when I don't see seasons in the plants around me. It's one of those things I love timelessly and which would be one of the greatest sacrifices someone could ever ask me to make. But I'd STILL be in love with the proposal that Bear gave to Cassie, the chance to be... that! (Don't worry, spoiler-free as always. <3)
What really gets to me is how Cassie treated Bear though. Because Bear, for all that he is this magical Polar Bear King--and he's a literal bear by the way! Not a human being with the accessories of one! Which is AWESOME!!!! >Wcharming. My God, is he charming! He has a sense of humor, and he's not afraid to play or to be romantic, or to be affectionate and treat Cassie like she's the one special being he chose above all the others! He sets her up on a pedestal, and though he doesn't worship her in any creepy sense of the word, he truly does his best to show that he cares. And I think throughout the first half of the book, those attempts to do what he can to make her happy, and show her he's really trying for her sake, eventually becomes real affections--on both their parts. The real magic of a romance begins to set in then, and it's lovely to watch.
But don't go jumping to any conclusions, my friends and readers. Romance? *Laughs* This book's attempts at romance go as far as a nut from a tree. Blam! You say they "enjoy each other's company" (and I mean that in a non-sexual way) and that's about it. The total count of romantic scenes is about... pfft. Three. And the author even skips over the four weeks (it might be months, don't quote me on this) when they're just getting used to each other! Anyone who knows REAL romance--*Glares at Toilet and most of the B.S. YA novels being written today*--know that THAT'S when the magic starts to happen! But no. We completely miss out on that! XP It upset me at first, but now, seeing how story-driven this book ended up being, I can't say that I mind. The romance isn't "in your face," and that's a nice change considering most of the blatant CRAP being written today that gets slapped with the label.
AND THEN WE GET MORE THINGS CHANGING~ And it's in part because Cassie has her dumb-idiot moments that it happens. I don't like how she does things sometimes but says things that completely go against her actions. Like when she willingly decides to reach a certain point in the relationship that grows between her and Bear, and then she turns right around and for the next hundred or so pages, all I keep hearing from her is how Bear "betrayed" her. I wanted to slap her upside the head for being so MORONIC! She KNEW what she was getting herself into the ENTIRE time! Bear didn't hide a single flippin' thing from her! But she goes right ahead and blames what happens on him, even after he WAITS until SHE makes the choice to come to HIM. ARGGGGHHHHH!!!! THAT REALLY TICKED ME OFF! But I'm not being completely fair. She doesn't bring up the "betrayal" thing constantly. What kinda upset me though is that every single time she seems to grow more as a character, I'll think she's grown beyond saying something as selfish and blind-eyed as that, and then she'd shock me by bringing it up again out of the blue. I understand that it's a big thing to happen to any girl! But that doesn't change the fact that the way she acted made me think she was growing more and more mature, and then her words or thoughts would randomly reveal that she was still clinging onto that one word--"betrayal"--that I as the reader, and she as the character, should have BOTH known was inappropriate for what happened! So I got a little flustered about that.
Yet... about 200 to 250 pages through the book... I began to realize that I was increasingly alright with Cassie's complaints. What had grated on me before and annoyed me, I began to see as just the natural reaction from any teenage girl going through what she had to go through. And when I saw what actions she took, and to what extent she would go for Bear... I couldn't feel unimpressed, or say that I didn't think she was amazing. Sarah Beth Durst did an amazing job of writing all that Cassie willingly went through for Bear. And if that doesn't influence everyone's opinion of her at least minimally, then I wouldn't trust that person's judgment for a second. Cassie has her flaws, but they're reasonable and make sense when they show up. And that made realize: No matter what she says, I'll judge her by her actions over her words... any day. Because her actions are too epic, and too amazing not to be valued over her complaints. *Smiles thoughtfully* I guess in that way, she reminds me quite a bit of my best friend.
I do have a couple of critiques more that I have to point out though. One of them being that I feel Sarah Beth Durst may have an amazing knack for telling stories, and definitely an engaging writing style, but I can pick out the places where her writing doesn't always flow smoothly. Mind you, the bumps aren't large, but they're noticeable. And they're not frequent, but they are here or there enough that I noticed them once or twice. Considering this was her first book though, I'm willing to shrug it off, because it's just not that big of a deal. You can still follow the story perfectly, and none of them end up confusing or losing you. One of the other things that threw me off especially at the beginning is that she still has some headway to make with letting her characters' personalities show themselves. For instance, she writes that Cassie feels one way, but it comes off a little flat, so we're left expecting to feel that personality and the emotion from her, but we don't completely get it except in a dull, "there it is" kind of way. It doesn't come out and make itself obvious, which leaves the characters feeling kind of dull at the beginning. It's the story and the things they go through that becomes their saving grace, because they have things to react to, and that gives them more feeling than they had before. My hopes are that with the skills that Sarah Beth Durst has to write a story, and that with some more work from her and experience under her belt, she'll be able to give her characters more personality without needing to rely completely on their situations to bring it out of them. And although that's an essential part to any story writer's works, there's always room for improvement. <3 This is the only reason I feel this book should be rated at four stars instead of five. I know that she can do better, and I want to see that!
In the end, I had some high hopes for this book. I was disappointed by the beginning, but I can assure every single one of you that if you don't give this book a chance by reading it all the way through to the ending, then you're going to miss out on a LOT of the awesome things that happen. Because you don't really get to experience the full pleasure of this book until you've finished it. The ending, and even the middle-to-ending parts, are really a trip and a half. You'll definitely find yourself being tugged along for the ride. You need to give this book a shot to be able to enjoy it, though. Don't close it and put it aside after the first few pages, or even the first fifty! Keep going until the very end. It's Sarah Beth Durst's first book, and let me tell you: it deserves a chance. You'll be stunned at how skillfully the story wraps up, and the ending leaves you satisfied and without that empty feeling when you get a story cutting off on you too soon. Plus! Within just the last ten pages, there's a surprise there like you'd NEVER expect! You can't miss out on it! It's just TOO cool! 8D
So do yourselves and this lovely, very talented author a favor! Read this book! It's worth it!