Thursday, September 29, 2016

VASSA IN THE NIGHT Blog Tour: Review + Q&A with Sarah Porter #BlogTour






Vassa in the Night
by Sarah Porter
Source: Received an ARC from Raincoast Books Canada in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Number of Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

Description from Goodreads:
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.

MY REVIEW

I've always been a big fan of fairytales and folk tales, but Vassilissa the Beautiful was a new one to me so I was very excited to read VASSA IN THE NIGHT! I thought that it sounded quirky, imaginative, and very strange...and that's exactly what it was! My first thought after finishing it was that it was delightfully weird, and I'm still standing firmly by that days after finishing it!  

The main character of VASSA IN THE NIGHT is, you guessed it, Vassa! As far as main characters go, I liked the choices that Vassa made, but there was a bit of a wall between her and the reader. She's fairly aloof. You don't really get to know her all that well, and she stays pretty mysterious, which definitely plays into the mysterious elements of the story. I'm a pretty big character reader though, so I did feel some disconnect from her, but I still really loved getting to see everything unfold around her. I also just really loved that she was always ready to embrace the strange things going on around her, and as weird as things got, she never once backed away. The quirkiest thing about Vassa had to be Erg though. Erg is a wooden doll that Vassa's mother left her when she died, but she's not just a regular wooden doll. Nope. Erg is a walking, talking, breathing, eating, and totally animate being...and boy was she interesting! I think the standout strange character for me was Dex though, but I'm going to let him be a surprise for you until you read the book yourself. Then come back and let me know if you're a Dex fan, too. ;)

For me, the best part about VASSA IN THE NIGHT was the story and the writing! The writing was wonderful, and constantly kept me guessing. It definitely had a magical, fantastical feel to it that fit really well with the folktale aspect of the story. As I said before, I'm not very familiar with the Vassilissa the Beautiful folktale, so I started off just knowing the very basics and Vassilissa and Baba Yaga, but VASSA IN THE NIGHT has me very intrigued and I think I'll have to look into the folktale a bit more! I loved getting to see Vassa, Babs, and all of the strange things going on in the magical realm of Brooklyn! ;) 

 While there were definitely moments during VASSA IN THE NIGHT where I was left a bit puzzled, it was still an extremely enjoyable story to read. It's a quirky book, and I think if you go into it expecting there to be some mystery and confusion, you'll really enjoy it, too.
 Overall, I really enjoyed VASSA IN THE NIGHT! It was a bit confusing at times, but the writing really swept me away and I couldn't put it down. I recommend this to anyone who loves beautiful writing with zany and mysterious plotlines, especially if you're a fan of folktales and fairytales. :)


Q&A with Sarah Porter!

My Question:

I've always been interested in folktales and fairytales, so I've been eagerly awaiting VASSA IN THE NIGHT since I heard about it months ago! I've also always been interested in how much folktales and fairytales evolve, yet somehow still manage to keep people interested. I'm guessing that you're also a folk and fairy tale fan, so what interests you when it comes to folktales and fairytales and the retellings of them, and why do you think we still find them so fascinating years after they originate?

Sarah's Amazing Answer:

I don’t think this is a particularly original idea—but I’d say that the fascination of folk tales comes from the fact that they evolve through so many tellings, over so much time. Each of the stories has not one, but hundreds of authors, and that multiplicity of voices embedded and hidden in every story means that in reading them we’re relating to a broader human imagination. You know, if you read a novel, you’re relating to the specific mind it came from, to one particular voice emerging from a specific time and place. But when you read a folk tale, you’re relating to an entire culture, to the psychological forces of dozens or thousands of people who contributed to that story in some way, added or altered something in the way they narrated it, over centuries. And it’s amazing the way the stories weave through each other: lots of people have pointed out the similarities between Vassilissa and Cinderella, or between Cupid and Psyche and “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It’s as if a universal human mind, and all of human history, sat down at your fireside and started speaking.
 About Sarah Porter (Bio & Photo from her Website)

I write stories that seem to me to be quite true enough for all practical purposes. Among them are VASSA IN THE NIGHT, THE LOST VOICES TRILOGY, and the forthcoming WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW and TENTACLE AND WING. Realism makes little sense to me and I experience more truth in the fantastic. I always have new novels underway, both Young Adult and Grownup/ Literary/ Speculative. When not writing my own weird stuff, I can often be found leading creative writing workshops with amazing young NYC public-school writers via Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Or I might be drawing, or gardening, or wandering wraithlike through the streets. I live in Brooklyn, land of mystery, with my awesome husband Todd and our two cats, Jub Jub and Delphine.
What do you think?
Does VASSA IN THE NIGHT sound like a book you'd enjoy?
Have you read it already? What'd you think?

And do you agree with Sarah?
Why do you think fairytales and folktales fascinate us so much?

2 comments:

  1. Good to hear you enjoyed this one overall despite some reservations. Those weird, mysterious elements are interesting because I find that they are either a hit or a miss for me. Either I love it for its bizarre uniqueness or I can't get into it because it's just TOO out there. But I would hope this one would fall under the hit category for me! :)

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  2. I have heard so many mixed things about this book- mostly that it's SO weird. I can handle weird (usually). I am curious about it. I am glad to see that you enjoyed it.

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