Published: May 14th 2013 by HarperTeen
Format: eARC, 293 pages
Genres: Fairytale Retelling
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At first, I merely saw his face, his hands on the window ledge. Then, his whole body as he swung himself through the window. Only I could not see what he swung on.
Until, one day, I told my dream self to look down. And it was then that I saw. He had climbed on a rope. I knew without asking that the rope had been one of my own tying.
Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her.
Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.
Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now.
Although well told and imaginative, I think this project was a little too ambitious for my liking. Towering is modern retelling of the Rapunzel fairy-tale, but Flinn has coupled it with elements from Wuthering Heights which left me bewildered and confused.
Wyatt is my favourite character in the book – he’s smart, kind at heart, and still recovering from the deaths of his best friends. When he arrives in the tiny town of Slakkill to live with Mrs. Greenwood, the mother of his mother’s best friend, he’s quiet and skeptical about country life and sorely misses his modern comforts. I think his development is admirable and I really liked the person he changed into by the end of the book. I also liked Rachel – she’s a dreamer at heart and although being locked in a tower hasn’t been great for her, she barely remembers any other life and is as happy as she can be. It’s only when an outside force – Wyatt – is introduced into her life that she starts questioning things. Flinn has chosen to give Rachel a bigger storyline than just being rescued from imprisonment, and I love how integral she is to the plot.
My main disappointment with Towering is that it wasn’t as clever and complex and compelling as I was hoping. The beginning is heavily borrowed from Wuthering Heights, the middle vividly reminiscent of Disney’s Tangled, and the conclusion is a hot mess of overused themes and tropes. Unlike many of the fairy tale retellings I do enjoy, Towering brings nothing new and exciting to the table, and left me underwhelmed. I think a lot of people also find the book internally inconsistent, but I actually didn’t think so. The reasons for the prophecy, Zach’s role, why Mama kept Rachel in the tower are all explained, and make a twisted kind of sense in the story-world. It’s all incredibly unbelievable, especially since Zach’s supposed to be the outsider and more like the reader in how skeptical he is about the magic thing, but I just want to point out that it works inside the warped story world. The only thing that didn’t really make sense was the insta-love, which never makes sense in a book.
My favourite part of the book were Danielle’s diary entries. There was a character I liked, whose voice I enjoyed, whose plight I immediately sympathised with. I wish her diary entries had continued throughout the book because a) when used well it’s an amazing plot device and b) Danielle’s character is what I hinge the enjoyment I got from Towering.
If this was a début novel, I’d be more tolerant of its humdrum nature, but Alex Flinn has written many books, and more importantly, has written many great fairy tale retellings. This is not the work of a novice. It’s difficult for me to understand how the mind who brought us Beastly also wrote this, and I hope Towering isn’t indicative of the rest of her books.