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Books to Read, Love, and Share: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, two stories intertwine. We watch Mina, an ambitious young girl, strive to gain acceptance at court. Her magician father expects her to use her beauty to get a good marriage for herself, but he insists that no one will ever love her nor can she love anyone. The reason? He created her heart out of glass. Still, she doesn’t need love – just a crown and adoration.
In another time, fifteen-year-old Lynet climbs trees and spies on people. Her father treats her as a delicate bird, but she’d much rather go out hunting and on adventures. The only person who truly understands her is her stepmother, Mina. Lynet has loved Mina since the moment she met her at two-years-old and has always considered her more of a mother than the one she never met.
But Lynet’s fifteen now, and her father expects her to behave like a future queen. For Lynet to realize his hopes for her, she’ll have to displace Mina and forsake their love and friendship. If only one of them can be queen, how can Lynet ever make Mina and her father happy? And how does her happiness fit into the equation?
Do you ever feel like a book was written for you? And when you have to close it that last time, like you’re losing a friend? That’s what this beautiful, soul-singing book did to me.
I had a lot of doubt and baggage going into this book. First and foremost, even though I’ve always adored retellings, I don’t like the story of Snow White. No retelling has ever convinced me otherwise. I have never liked the idea of a princess in exile even if she gets a powerful moment at the end and reclaims her throne. Also, one reviewer calls this book a “feminist fairy tale.” I’ll admit, I spent the first thirty pages with a raised eyebrow, quietly muttering “we’ll see about that.”
I was not disappointed. At every turn, Lynet and Mina are guided by their love for each other, even when they are pushed apart by people (Lynet’s father Nicholas) or self-doubt (Mina, for herself) or miscommunication.
In the first few pages, we understand that Mina has the Slytherin-y ambition and self-importance to fulfill the Evil Queen/Stepmother archetype. Even when she first volunteers to babysit little Lynet, she’s calculating Nicholas’ reactions and body language to see if her gesture has hit the mark. Mina leaps from the page in her deep humanity, keeping the reader guessing as to her next (potentially flawed and fatal) actions.
We meet Lynet in a tree. She’s an observer on her own world, trying to figure out what will best make her father happy. Only when she meets the young castle surgeon, Nadia, does she wonder if she should take steps towards her own happiness.
It’s all here, friends: well-developed characters and relationships, spins and twists on details from the classic tale, a plot that will keep you guessing, and a quest for the third option. I told you that I felt this book was written for me (and indeed, I’m convinced it’s the only version of Snow White I’ll ever share with my daughter), but I know you and your students will LOVE it, too.
In the Classroom:
Girls Made of Snow and Glass belongs in the hands of every ninth-grade girl. Immediately. Go ahead and buy two or three copies for your classroom library, because this one is a game-changer.
This book makes me want to do Lit Circles that are entirely retellings. It’s easy to imagine assigning each group two books or tales – the original, and a retelling. This could be the Snow White version alongside a Mechanica & Cinderella group. You could start your Lit Circles with a poll to have students start from classic stories they love and then move into adding retellings. A design like this can foster interesting discussions. How much should a retelling change in order to be a new story? How many echoes do readers want or need of the original tale? How can our love of genre fiction blend with fairy tales? [I once wrote a dark dystopian retelling of Sleeping Beauty for NaNoWriMo…]
And then, of course, we can ask students to write, write, and write some more. We’ve seen a lot of “from the eyes of the villain” literature over the past few years (I’m thinking Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister or even the TV show Once Upon a Time), but there are still fresh takes. I love how Girls Made of Snow and Glass is written in split-perspectives and really shows us how Mina grows into herself. Students could easily write from the perspective of another classic “villain”, but create a “before the story” short that shows more of their development as a character.
To circle back around, please put this book in the hands of every teen girl you meet. My teenager self needed more books like this in her life. If you’d like to purchase this novel, please consider doing so through my Amazon Affiliate link. I get a small commission from the book sale that helps me pay for my website. 😉