by Donna Jo Napoli

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.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fantasy
  • Rating: 3.58
  • Pages: 227
  • Publish Date: November 1st 1998 by Puffin Books
  • Isbn10: 0141301163
  • Isbn13: 9780141301167

Read the Book "Zel" Online

But, I think, contrary to what appears to be a popular opinion, the characters are made to be completely believable in the time frames given to Napoli from the original story. That said, it is very heavy for such a short novel, and I definitely put it on the older end of young adult. (Parents: if your teen has not yet read the Giver or the Lord of the Flies or anything by Shakespeare, you might want to hold off on this book.) In the span of two lunch breaks, I got to see vividly how two obsessive characters can destroy someone who is relatively pure in nature with manic love, because that is exactly what this story is about. The tragedy is entirely in Mother, who simply wanted a child too badly and went about it in the worst of ways.

While most people are quick to name authors such as Marissa Meyer as the master of fairy-tale retellings, I firmly believe that Donna Jo Napoli deserves the rightful title. Not Your Mothers Rapunzel: Zel is a much darker and grittier take than even the Brothers Grimm fairytale, because while you get the gory details in Grimms story, you dont get the reason why. In creating the darker backstory for the Wicked Mother and Rapunzel, she creates an entirely new perspective that will alternately make you recoil in disgust but feel sympathy for the character that deserves it the least: the Mother. Yes, Mommy Dearest: While the main character of the story is supposed to be Zel (because duh; this is her retelling), I would strongly argue that the star of the show is Mother. Mother is first portrayed to us as a hyper-protective, smothering woman who wants Zel to never leave her for reasons we dont fully understand. But just as Napoli is deft at striking the right balance in retelling tales, she is equally masterful at making formerly one-dimensional characters into fully fleshed out, sympathetic people. While this retelling is a much darker take on the seemingly innocent Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Napoli shows with her haunting yet starkly beautiful writing how far people are willing to go to get the things they want, and the devastating consequences that are sure to follow.

Mother looks forward to the time when Zel will have to make the choice between leaving the farm to start her own family, or staying with Mother forever. Konrad sees Zel's sweet way with animals and her unusual manners, and is enchanted with her. As soon as Mother realizes Zel's thoughts have turned to a certain young man and the unsure way he made her feel, she acts to separate the two before they have a chance to meet again. At first Mother reaches the tower by making a tree next to it grow and shrink, but eventually Mother can climb up by Zel's hair. Napoli has written the book from the three different viewpoints of Zel, Mother and Konrad. As Mother's reasoning becomes more flawed and distressed, Zel starts to lose her own mind, cooped up in the tower with only a hour long visit from Mother each day. Napoli did a great job of handling the extreme youth of Zel and Konrad.

This book is filled with both beauty and horror, love and hate. The sweet innocence and love between Zel and her prince is very beautiful. The fact that it doesn't go overboard on the horror, it is subtly set in a very believable 1500's Europe, and that it also includes a lot of sweet joy and love makes this a 5 star book for me.

The first time Zel meets a boy, her mother locks her in a tower to prevent them from ever meeting again. Zel stays in the tower for two years and begins to go crazy. The boy she met searches for and finally finds the tower. Zel ends up in a desert somewhere with strange people. When Zel started going crazy in the tower, it got really messed up.

I mean I did like this book it certainly was good and a captivating story, but it just kind of seemed to drag on. AND THEN THIS REPEATS LIKE FOUR MORE TIMES OVER THE COURSE OF ABOUT 7 YEARS (?) I mean this book certainly is good and a great story, I just gave it the rating I did because of the annoying style of writing and how it really dragged on in the end.

Since many of the retellings out there are for young-adults, don't think this is a "kid's book".

For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to make the neighbors wonder. She received her BA in mathematics in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1973, both from Harvard University, then did a postdoctoral year in Linguistics at MIT.