Ever Cursed

S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jul. 2020. 304p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534437036.
Gr 7-10–Jane, the eldest princess of the kingdom of Ever, has not been able to eat a single bite since her 13th birthday, when she and her four younger sisters were cursed by Reagan, a witch. Five years later, Reagan returns to tell the princesses how to break their curse. They must acquire four specific items in four days, before Reagan’s own 18th birthday makes the curse permanent. Breaking the curse means leaving the safety of the castle walls, getting to know the people of Ever, and learning the truth about their father, the king. Following in the tradition of fairy tales addressing social issues, Haydu’s story includes themes of sexual assault, the role of women in society, and concentration of power. Taking place over a short period of time, the plot moves slowly with little forward momentum. Narrated by Jane and Reagan in alternating chapters, any action that occurs is inevitably interrupted by flashbacks, descriptions, or the narrators themselves growing introspective. Jane’s four cursed younger sisters and their various afflictions hint at interesting characters with unique perspectives, but ultimately, prove little more than set dressing.
VERDICT The themes the story attempts to address are admirable, and the solemn tone is appropriate, but the heavy-handed execution results in an underwhelming tale for readers beginning to explore these topics. An additional purchase.

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