Briar Rose – Jane Yolen Review

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope.

Briar Rose is the story of a twenty three year old girl who makes a promise to her dying grandmother, Gemma. Over the years, Gemma has retold the story of Briar Rose over and over again, and has insisted that she herself is Briar Rose. On her deathbed, she makes Becca promise that she will go find her castle and the Prince that kissed her awake. This leads Becca on a journey to discover exactly who her grandmother was.
Jane Yolen had a very unique idea. She juxtaposed the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty with the Holocaust. This combined to create a distinctive novel. This book was extremely compelling, though difficult to read at some times. Most people are aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, but I think Becca found it very difficult to imagine her beloved Gemma in the middle of them. I don’t know if I would classify this as a young adult novel just because some of the thematic elements are a little more mature, but I don’t think it would be inappropriate for teenagers to read it.
My favourite part was the second section when she actually learns more about Gemma and everything she went through. However, I still thought there was a lot left untold about her. I think everything left untold was very true to Gemma however since her life was always such a mystery. It makes sense that there would be a little mystery left at the end of the story too.
I did think that Becca’s romantic story was kind of an afterthought and the novel didn’t really need her to have a love interest. However, all in all, this is an extremely gripping novel and I definitely recommend it.

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