Book Review: Vassa In the Night

Posted September 16, 2016 by Kara in book review, Kara / 2 Comments

Book Review: Vassa In the NightVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen on September 20th 2016
Genres: young adult, fantasy, retellings
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .
Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.

Vassa In the Night was probably one of the most creative, and also, one of the strangest books I have ever read. I also really liked it, and that’s something that kind of surprised me since the reviews coming in so far are a bit mixed. My own co-blogger was a bit disappointed in it. We don’t always agree, but I almost decided not to read it. I’m glad I changed my mind.

Look, I have to be honest. I know this book is a retelling, I’ve heard of Baba Yaga, but I’ve never read the original that this book was based upon. So I only have what I read here to go on. I don’t even know where to start.

It was whimsical, violent, out in space, and like a really crazy fairytale on steroids. Baba Yaga (called Babs in this book) runs a convenience store (BYs) where your head gets chopped off if you’re caught stealing. Her sister sends her out one night for some light bulbs and the only place left open is BY’s. It’s a set-up because her sister suspects her of stealing, so basically she’s setting up Vassa to be killed. Nice sister, huh?

Anyway, so Vassa goes to BY’s, there are a bunch of severed heads on pikes outside the store warning people what happens if you steal. Thing is, even if you don’t steal, they make it look like you did steal. So the odds of getting out of that store with your head are slim to none. There are also swans, severed body parts that move, magic snacks, and a motorcycle rider that circles the store all night long on the same path. It’s just a really weird but really special book. No, it wasn’t perfect, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the writing was my favorite part. The whole thing just felt like a dream.

Okay, so what didn’t I like? There were a couple things that Vassa did at the end that just felt out of character for me. I’ll put them in spoiler tags for anyone that is curious, but they will definitely ruin some of the end of the book for you, so look at your own risk. View Spoiler »


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