[Review] Grim - Christine Johnson

Title of Book: Grim
Author: Christine Johnson (editor)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Year: 2014
Language: English
Format: Ebook
Pages: 480

Inspired by classic fairy tales, but with a dark and sinister twist, Grim contains short stories from some of the best voices in young adult literature today: 
Ellen Hopkins 
Amanda Hocking 
Julie Kagawa 
Claudia Gray 
Rachel Hawkins 
Kimberly Derting 
Myra McEntire 
Malinda Lo 
Sarah Rees-Brennan 
Jackson Pearce 
Christine Johnson 
Jeri Smith Ready 
Shaun David Hutchinson 
Saundra Mitchell 
Sonia Gensler 
Tessa Gratton 
Jon Skrovon

Grim is a short story collection that contains several retelling of the brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. Before talking about this short story collection as a whole, let me talk about each of the short story.
The Key by Rachel Hawkins (★★★★)
The Key is a retelling of Bluebeard. I’m quite familiar with this fairy tale. I’ve seen it referenced on TV shows or other books, but I’ve never read the actual story. Bluebeard is about a nobleman who’s violent and has a habit of murdering his wives. Hawkins gave a new take on the fairy tale by setting it in modern times. Instead of nobleman murdering wives, we have teenagers and one of them is missing. The Key is suspenseful and thrilling. The twist is what makes it so. Too bad that it ends kind of abruptly, so we don’t really get a conclusion to the main character’s fate. It’s still fun to read though. I just wish that it’s longer.
Figment by Jeri Smith-Ready (★★★)
Figment is about a boy named Eli, who gets an odd inheritance from his estranged father. He received a cat plush which later turns out to be a kind of lucky charm. His father was a musician, a one hit wonder kind. Eli found out from the cat plush that it’s the one who help his father to be successful at his time. But then his father left the cat plush which is why he only had one hit song. Eli is also a musician. He believes the cat plush and tries to carry it around with him. Figment is a retelling of Puss in boots, a fairy tale about a cat who uses tricks and deceit to gain power and wealth. I like how the puss is represented as a cat plush in this story. Figment to me has that Toy Story feel. Especially when we learn towards the end that Eli has grown up and the cat plush is kind of abandoned (but not really). It’s a touching story. I like this one.
The Twelfth Girl by Malinda Lo (★★)
The Twelfth Girl is the twelve dancing princesses retelling with a modern twist. Instead of princesses, we have a group of popular girls in a boarding school. They live in one dorm, especially reserved for them. They kind of have this sorority girls mentality. The main character is an outsider. She believes that if she joins these girls, she will be able to fit in. She is invited by the leader of the girls to join in. She said yes to her, a decision that later she’ll regret. Because after she becomes one of them, she learns the horrible truth behind their popularity. It’s a fun retelling, but it’s weird. The popular girls aspect makes it seems like a typical teen movie, even though there’s a supernatural twist in it. I don’t like this retelling.
The Raven Princess by Jon Skovron (★★★)
The Raven Princess is a retelling of The Raven, which I’ve never heard of. This retelling has the usual fairy tale elements, with magic, quest, knight in shining armor (kind of), and a witch or a giant. Because there’s a lot going on in this story, it doesn’t feel like a short story. It’s pretty dense. It’s full of action too, so it was a fast read. It’s quite gruesome and gory, but it ends with a happy note (again, kind of).
Thinner than Water by Saundra Mitchell (★★★★)
This story is a retelling of Donkeyskin. I’ve never heard of Donkeyskin. It surprised me that there’s incest in this story. My initial thought was it’s in this story for the sake of being twisted. So I google search the original tale. It turns out that the incest is in the original tale. The original tale is already twisted. Thinner than water also has the usual fairy tale elements with king, queen, sorcery and quest. What makes it a bit unusual is the main character, who is a girl, is a fighter. She constantly tries to find a way to refuse the king’s order, who has the highest authority in the kingdom. In fairy tales, more often the girls portrayed as damsel in distress. But not this one, which I appreciate.
Before the Rose Bloomed: A Retelling of the Snow Queen by Ellen Hopkins (★★★)
It’s given on the title that this story is the Snow Queen retelling. I’m familiar with the original tale, which makes this story being in the collection called Grim is kind of odd to me. Since this fairy tale is by Hans Christian Andersen not Brothers Grimm. I’ve also read another retelling of the tale. What makes this story different though, is the format. I knew that Ellen Hopkins is known for her writing to be in verse. I haven’t had the chance to check her books out, so this was exciting for me. I didn’t pay much attention to the originality of this story because I’ve read other retelling of the Snow Queen. I focused more on her writing. I like the verse format and I like her writing. I must say, I’m looking forward to read her full novels.
Beast/ Beast by Tessa Gratton (★★)
Beast/ Beast is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, tale as old as time. We all know this fairy tale. There are so many retellings of Beauty and the Beast already that they burn me out. The fact that Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, probably makes me having high expectation for this story. This story doesn’t leave much impression on me. The description of the beast is confusing and weird. I don’t like this retelling. 
The Brothers Piggett by Julie Kagawa (★★★★)
The Brothers Piggett is a retelling of the Three Little Pigs. This one is a dark retelling. Body shaming is used as the main issue in this story. It’s also a love story, with creepy twist at the ending. I love the twisted ending. Julie Kagawa is another author whose books I’ve yet to read. This story introduces me to her writing. I love her take on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale. I’m looking forward to read her full novels.
Untethered by Sonia Gensler (★★★★)
Untethered is shorter than most of the stories in this book. I’m not sure what retelling is this story, but I can tell you that it’s about ghost. I don’t like ghost. I’m the kind of reader who gets scared easily. So I was caught off guard with the twist in this story. I was too busy being scared that I didn’t see the twist coming. That works fine for me. The ending is actually sad. Untethered is like one of those horror movies that are scary, but has a sad truth behind the scariness. It’s a good short story. I’m curious to know the original fairy tale of this retelling.
Better by Shaun David Hutchinson (★★★)
Better is a science fiction take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I don’t know the original tale, but this retelling intrigued me. It’s about a clone who’s supposed to be the key to human survival. It’s set on a spaceship, which is new to me. People in this spaceship are what is left of humanity and they are on the way to inhabit a new planet. Unfortunately the children in the spaceship caught some kind of a new disease and a doctor tried to find a cure by experimenting and observing the clone. For a short story, it has a complex plot and promising premise. It has potential to be a standalone novel. I can see it being expanded more and written as a full novel. 
Light it Up by Kimberly Derting (★★★★)
Light it Up is a Hansel and Gretel retelling. This story is set in modern time. So no witch, no magic, but who says there’s no evil even in modern time? Instead of a witch, the siblings stumble upon a cannibal serial killer. It’s thrilling and I love it. I like reading about true crimes or crime fictions, with kidnapers, serial killers, and whatnot. So I enjoyed reading this version of Hansel and Gretel. 
Sharper than a Serpent’s Tongue by Christine Johnson (★★★)
This story is a retelling of Diamonds and Toads. I’ve never read the original tale so I didn’t know where this story was going. Basically, it’s about good sister and bad sister who are enchanted by a sorceress. Whenever the good sister speaks, jewels and flowers will fall from her lips. While when the bad sister speaks, snake and toads will fall from her lips. Although in fairy tale good and evil are usually seen as black and white, this story doesn’t adopt that view. For instance, the supposedly ‘bad sister’ tried to save her sister by trying to speak to the neighbor and calling the police. Also, the old woman who enchanted the sisters said that she’s giving the good sister a gift and giving the bad sister a curse. But then again, is it really a gift to vomit jewelry and flowers from your mouth?
A Real Boy by Claudia Gray (★★★)
A Real Boy is a retelling of Pinocchio with a futuristic twist. In this story, we have Blue, a student who’s studying how to build robots. Her professor builds an android whose intelligence resembles human’s intelligence. This violates the rules, of course. So the professor has to keep this a secret and assigned Blue as the robot’s personal caretaker. Blue also responsible to monitor the robot’s development and make sure that no one knows about the robot. This story touches upon the moral implications of artificial intelligence, a topic that often being talked about in science fictions. It’s a refreshing take on Pinocchio. Even though it’s about android and advanced technology, it’s easy to read and understand. I enjoyed reading A Real Boy. I feel like if you like reading science fiction, you will like this short story. 
Skin Trade by Myra McEntire (★★)
Skin Trade is about a band consists of several handsome men who like to murder women and skin them. It’s really creepy. This story made me feel uncomfortable while reading it. I didn’t enjoy it. I like reading crime fictions so it’s not that the gore surprised me. It’s just that we don’t get back story or at least a small explanation as to why these men kill and skin women. They just did it and I don’t like that. I wish I knew which fairy tale this story is based on.
Beauty and the Chad by Sarah Rees Brennan (★★★★)
Another Beauty and the Beast retelling! But I like this one better than the other one in this book. It’s an amusing retelling. The Beast in this story came from our world. He’s a frat boy who’s cursed and placed in the usual fairy tale setting, a castle in the old world. So you can imagine how hilarious it is the interaction between the Beast Chad and Beauty. Chad often use modern slang and idiom which cause funny misunderstanding between the two. Clearly, the Chad is a laid-back guy that’s often misunderstood because of his appearance (and his way of speaking). It’s fun and so refreshing. I like this retelling.    
The Pink: A Grimm Story by Amanda Hocking (★★★★)
The Pink is a retelling of the Pink, a fairy tale about a boy whose wishes always come true. Like The Raven and Thinner than Water, this story has the usual fairy tale elements. I’ve never read the original fairy tale, but I assume this retelling doesn’t stray far from the original. I’m okay with it since I don’t know the original tale. It reads like a fantasy and I like that. It’s a nice introduction of a fairy tale that I haven’t heard of. 
Sell Out by Jackson Pearce (★★)
Sell Out is a weird story and I’m not sure which fairy tale it’s based on. After browsing Goodreads community reviews section, apparently it’s a retelling of Snow White but from the prince’s perspective. It’s an intriguing premise, but the execution of this story is not enjoyable to read. The boy who’s the prince in this story has the ability to resurrect people. It turns out, he’s not the only one with this ability and there are companies that employ these people and provide their ability as a service. That alone already freaked me out. The story takes an even darker turn when a stepmother of a girl tries to bribe the main character to botch her resurrection. I don’t know how I feel about this one. It’s weird and I didn’t like this story.
All in all, this short story collection has everything. Although Goodreads summary said that they have dark and sinister twist, not all of them are that way. There are some that sad or light hearted and just fun to read. There are retellings with fantasy elements and also science fiction, or crime/thriller elements. There’s one for everyone. The title of this book kind of misleads me a bit though. I thought that this book contains retelling of Brother Grimm’s fairy tales, but it’s not and that’s fine with me. I don’t recommend reading the stories back to back and I don’t think you have to read all of the stories in this book. It’s still a good way to discover authors you haven’t read. 

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