Review: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age Group: Teen
Source: Library
Good Reads  |  Amazon
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary from GoodReads:

High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need — for they have each other. Zel’s life is peaceful and protected — until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel’s mother sees the future unfolding — and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her… “Will leave readers spellbound.”– Publishers Weekly, starred review

My Thoughts

You all know how much I love fairytale retellings.  I adored fairytales when I was a kid, particularly ones that involved pretty princesses.  But Rapunzel was not a favorite of mine.  It always kind of scared me, although I have no idea what about it freaked me out.  I haven’t read any Rapunzel retellings, so I thought I would try out Zel.  I heard tons of good things about it during Project: Fairy Tale.  After reading this one, I’m unsure how I feel about it.

This is a fairly faithful retellings, with all the major events that happen in the original occuring in this novel.  Something I really loved was reading scenes from Mother’s point of view.  Although you might not agree with everything that she does, you really get to understand where she is coming from.  There is no doubt how much Mother loves Zel.  Mother’s chapters were definitely my favorite parts of the book.

I didn’t really get to know Zel or Konrad very well, however.  I wish their characters could have been a little more fleshed out, but the novel is only 220 pages, so there isn’t a ton of time for character development.

What made me pretty uncomfortable was the relationship between Konrad and Zel.  They first meet whennshe is 12 (almost 13) and Konrad is maybe 15 or 16.  And he sort of develops feelings for her – ever though she is 12 years old!  That kind of freaked me out a bit.  And then, when Konrad finally finds Zel in the tower (this is so NOT a spoiler because it’s in the original fairytale) I felt like he kinid of took advantage of Zel because clearly she wasn’t all there after being stuck in the tower.  It just made me a bit uncomfortable.

So, basically what I’m saying is that I am not really sure how I feel about this one.  There were some aspects that I really enjoyed (learning more about Mother) but other aspects that really left me a bit queasy (Zel and Konrad’s relationship).  I think this is an okay story, but it is not even close to a favorite fairytale retelling.

About Quinn

I'm a twenty-something children's librarian at a public library in Central New York. I've long left my teen years behind me, but I love to read YA and children's books. I have two adorable dogs. Ginger is a mix between a poodle and havanese, and Daphne is Bichon Frise. Other things I love: Favorite Movie: Singing in the Rain Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Favorite TV Show: Monk
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4 Responses to Review: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

  1. I have heard some mixed reviews of this one!

  2. Merin says:

    Haha, I agree with you almost completely on this one! Their relationship in the tower was just weird. Zel was so clearly damaged that I had a hard time with the whole thing, just like you.

  3. Melinda says:

    I love fairy tales too. This is obviously a skip for me.
    PS: On a side note… WOW you are doing great with your reading challenge!! 🙂

  4. I really liked Golden from Cameron Dokey because of the funny twist on Rapunzel :p I like the fact that there is also a POV from Mother. Seems interesting! 🙂


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