Review: Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

Sunday, December 28, 2014
Title: Tear You Apart
Author: Sarah Cross
Genre: retellings, supernatural, young adult
Series: Beau Rivage #2
Pages: 384
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

A modern Snow White reimagining, in which a teen with a murderous stepmother is trapped in a dangerous game of love, jealousy, and hate with her best friend and lover, who is destined to decide if she lives or dies . . . until a mysterious prince from a strange underworld offers her an escape.

Faced with a possible loophole to her "Snow White" curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who's fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrficing the love that might kill her?

I was (and still am) a big fan of Sarah Cross's debut Kill Me Softly back when it was published in 2012. Having just reread it to prepare for this long-anticipated sequel, I can tell it holds up and remains fun, funny, clever, original, and diverse. Happily for me (and you!), Tear You Apart is more of the same. A feisty fairy tale retelling that loses one of the bite the Brothers Grimm were so fond of, Cross isn't afraid to go to dark places with her story and characters -- a fact that helps rank this series as tied with The Lunar Chronicles for my favorite modern retellings. 

The basics of the beloved Snow White tale are here -- evil stepmother, absent father, beautiful daughter in peril, animal friends, poisonings, angry huntsman -- but Cross makes it all her own from the start. From the town of Beau Rivage itself to the clever way she interprets and modernizes the curses, Tear You Apart is engaging and original while still holding true to the fairytale that inspired and guides it. There's all that you expect in a Snow White tale, and then more. Black lesbian singers, POC characters abound, creative spins on classic ideas -- it's all part and parcel of what Sarah Cross has to offer. (But can we get a third book just about Jewel, pretttyy pleaaaase?!)

Characters from the first book are still in play and remain likeable, active, and essential, but Viv and Henley are the main focal points and they err on the side of angry and angsty more than cute and cuddly. It was nice to see former MCs Blue, Mira, and Freddie (also can we make Freddie a gay Prince? I ship it) but the new characters also intrigued me (Jack Tran, anyone?) and seem to beg for more screentime. I'd be down for a Jack the Giant Slayer story, is what I am saying. Actually, I would be down for anything Cross writes in this world (and the two short stories [After the Ball & Twin Roses] are also fun trips back to Beau Rivage when you're in withdrawal.) 

There are some problematic aspects to this story, no matter how much I like it and had fun reading it. Viv and Henley don't communicate well (in general and with each other), and then punish each other for this fact for most of the book. Neither one acts very maturely when it comes to the other and it can be frustrating as hell. Their relationship is far from healthy. But for me, this book works because I don't need Viv or Henley to be perfect. I need them to grow, learn, adapt --- and this they do over the course of Tear You Apart. These books won't be for everyone -- they're far darker than most fairytale retellings being pubbed -- but I love them for just those reasons (among others.)

If you like dark fairy tales, or the Lunar Chronicles, I'd highly suggest the Beau Rivage stories. They are fresh, fun, and dangerous. Sarah Cross's imagination is a fertile, creative place and her retellings are highly readable and well-written.  


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