Sweetly is a YA modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel by the author Jackson Pearce.
When Gretchen and Ansel were very young, Gretchen's twin sister vanished without a trace while the three were in the woods exploring. Thing is, Gretchen remembers the witch's yellow eyes - she knows it was a witch, without a doubt, that took her sister. Ansel is less certain, and is haunted by his lack of knowledge of what happened exactly that night. Of course, no one believed Gretchen - and everyone was frustrated by the siblings' lack of help in the search.
Now that Gretchen is eighteen and Ansel is nineteen their stepmother kicks them out and the two head out to cross the country and leave the forests of the Pacific Northwest behind for the ocean of the East coast. But along the way they have car issues and end up in a tiny, sleepy town called Live Oak in South Carolina. In order to earn the money they need to get the car fixed and be on their way, Gretchen and Ansel are directed to Sophia Kelly's candy store.
Sophia herself is a graceful, beautiful, cheerful host who invites them to stay with her while they help out and earn some money. Her chocolates and candies are to die for...
As the two siblings begin to slip into a comfortable pattern with their new life, Gretchen meets good-looking but standoffish Samuel - and he isn't a fan of Sophia. He fills Gretchen in on the fact that every year at Sophia's chocolate festivals girls go missing. In fact, he is the first person Gretchen has ever met that seems to believe her when she says it was a witch that took her sister.
Sick of living in fear and being frightened by the sight of the forest, Gretchen is determined to start fighting back with the help of Samuel - but how could the sweet Sophia be involved? Who is the real monster?
She'll have to find out before she disappears like her sister...
Sweetly has a creepy beginning that gave me the impression that this book is perfect for Halloween!
There are so many awesome things about Sweetly it's hard to know where to start. How about this? I found it absolutely fascinating that Gretchen's abducted twin's name is not mentioned once for almost the entire novel, though she is talked of in the narrative extensively.
Then there's the fact that Jackson Pearce has Sweetly taking place in the modern world yet manages to keep that frightening feel of Hansel and Gretel, one of the scarier fairy-tales (in my opinion). She's created a understatedly supportive and loving relationship dynamic between Ansel and Gretchen that is interesting and likable and then she ratchets up the fear factor by setting the two in an isolated, middle-of-nowhere town that isn't all that fond of outsiders.
As this delectable story reaches shivering, scary peaks, there's something deliciously fun about the goosebump-inducing tone. Jackson Pearce has a way of making your nightmares come true. Sweetly also offers up a slow-burning romance with the enigmatic Samuel, who is hot but also has depth - excellent!
Sweetly has suspicious intentions, nail-biting suspense, a breathless, amazing end, and no lack of compassion and character development - fantastic and unique! How have I never read Jackson Pearce before this? I have no idea. But I intend to help you remedy that, bibliophile - that is if you haven't already.
All I know is I loved Sweetly and I want more from Jackson Pearce!
*I received a review copy of Sweetly from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.