Storybound, by Marissa Burt, was another book I read for the 2012 YA/MG Fantasy Reading Challenge. I loved the premise; I think every reader/writer has dreamed about being pulled into a storybook world. In Storybound, that’s exactly what happens to Una Fairchild.
“When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.
But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.”
I really liked the idea. I still do. And it was fun to see characters walking about, from many different genres, going to classes like Advanced Heroics, Villainy, and Backstory as they figure out what kind of tale they’d like to be in. As a soon-to-be college freshman, thinking about potential careers, I really connected to this concept.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with some of the main characters. They were amusing at times, and I liked certain qualities of each. But some just didn’t quite ‘pop’ for me, and I ran into that accursed disconnect that I get when I just don’t understand what’s going through a character’s head.
When the summary says that Una ‘thinks nothing’ of diving into a storybook world, they mean it. Cloaked figures in her school basement? ‘No big, just find another corner to read in.’ Waking up on a stone dais, in strange clothes, with no idea how she got there? ‘Must’ve found a secret passage. Whatevah.’ The moods – of Una and other characters – flip flop occasionally, like, they’re mad, and then cheerful, with very little transition between.
I liked the academy in Story. It almost gives off a Hogwarts kind of feel. And yet sometimes, the school and standard classmate-related conflicts seemed to overshadow the Uber-Important Events that are supposed to be going on.
Like, when Una first appears in Story, her ‘new friend Peter’ spends at least eleven pages thinking Una is a student, even after she gives him every hint that she is not supposed to be there. Then, instead of leaping into action and ‘digging into Story’s history’, etc… he goes to check if he just failed his exam. Then we actually sit in on a few classes, and they still don’t do a whole lot of ‘digging’. Even when they (mini-spoiler) go to find some all-important books to try and figure out how and why Una was brought to Story, Una thinks something about how ‘she’s never gone so long without reading an actual book.’ Like, the act of reading is more important to her then figuring out what the heck she’s doing in Story.
To paraphrase Ron Weasley: “These guys need to sort out their priorities.”
The action picked up a lot toward the end, almost to the point where things moved so fast that it was hard to understand. It cuts off in a weird place too. Things are kind of resolved, but it leaves a very major strand of the plot dangling. It’s a cliff-hanger, but it’s a cliff-hanger that we last heard about several chapters from the end. Then it was never mentioned again. By the time the last page rolled around, I’d almost forgotten about it—not good, considering it left some of my favorite characters of the book in danger.
Bottom line, I wasn’t really pulled in by the characters, and some of the pacing seemed off. However, it’s an alright, fun little read, and younger readers will probably enjoy the Hogwarts-y feel, and descriptions of the characters in Story. Writers will also appreciate the references to things like dialogue and backstory, I think.
I just wasn’t pulled as deeply into the world of Story as Una was, I suppose.
Have you ever imagined being pulled into a storybook world? Have you read Storybound yet? If so, did my observations line up with yours? If you haven’t read Storybound yet… Will you?