Book Review: ‘Spelled’ by Betsy Schow



My biggest struggle in middle school was finding “clean” YA novels, those rare books without any swear words, intense make-out scenes, or deep existential questions. (Tbh I’m still looking for books without intense kissing scenes…) Unfortunately, other than Ally Carter and Jenny B. Jones’ novels, I had very little luck. I found such a “clean” novel a week ago when I read Spelled; Betsy Schow’s book is the epitome of a clean read, the epitome of the funny, adorable, and age-appropriate novel. In other words, it’s a true gem.

The plot of Spelled can be described in the following five words, a fairy tale gone wrong. Our main character, Dorthea, is at the center of such chaos. For one, she’s “completely princed out” and forced to marry the brooding prince Kato. In fact, Dorthea would rather give up being the crown princess of Emerald and the accompanying perks ― the Glenda Original ball gowns and the Hans Christian Louboutin heels ― than marry that imbecile. But Dorthea’s not one for siting around and waiting for her fairy godmother; she wishes on a cursed star instead, which totally backfires. It’s up to Dorthea and her “pixed off” prince to get her parents back from the mysterious “Kansas” and find the mysterious Wizard of Oz to undo the curse of “unhappily ever after.”

My favorite part of Spelled? The puns on fantasy and real life. Take, for instance, my favorite sentence of the book: “The first few bars from Wrong Direction’s hit song, “My Spell’s What Makes You Beautiful,” came on from somewhere close by.” I had the privilege of spending three hundred fifty-two pages with Dorthea’s snarky sense of humor. By the time I read all her fairy tale survival rules and references to Emerald’s bestselling novels, I had thoroughly creeped my roommate out with my incessant cackling. This sentence will make you nostalgic for your childhood: “It’s like that bedtime story ‘If You Give A Princess Some Tea, She’ll Ask For A Cookie to Go With It’.”

Yet Spelled has some major flaws. The plot takes so many turns that I was lost within the first fifty pages. Flames, trolls, dragons, evil puppies, wizards, marriage, magical slippers, and I’m just getting started… The rushed world building is detrimental to the rest of the book; it amplified the other flaws in Spelled, such as Dorthea’s tendency to get on my nerves with her whining. (Seriously, Dorthea needs to realized how privileged of a princess she is.)

However, flaws aside, Spelled truly cast a spell on me. I actually got through the book without cringing, which is actually pretty monumental for me.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (June 2nd, 2015)
ISBN #: 9781492608714
Length: 352 pages (Paperback)
Source: Netgalley

Valerie is sixteen. She attends a boarding school near Boston, where she writes, reads, and attempts to be a studious student. She's too lazy to write the rest of this bio, so follow her on Twitter @torquoiseworld because shameless self-promotion is alive and thriving!