Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen

Snow in Summer: Fairest of Them All by Jane Yolen.

The mountains of West Virginia are the setting for this disturbing, yet riveting, retelling of the story of Snow White and her wicked stepmother. (The cover, by the way, is beautiful, but it doesn’t look like West Virginia, c.1949 at all, does it?) In this version, Snow in Summer is known as Summer to her mother, her cousin Jane, and the rest of her family. But her new stepmother, the witch, calls her Snow. Suffice it to say that this story won’t do anything to repair the reputation and public image of stepmothers in general.

The entire book walks just on the edge of plausibility. Could all of episodes in the book be real events, just sometimes interpreted by Snow in Summer as evil magic? Are a talking mirror and a bewitched father just too much to attribute to anything but sorcery and witchcraft? The story also includes a snake-handling, strychnine swallowing religious cult, green garden “magic”, and a murdering lecherous boy named Hunter. It’s reminiscent of some of the stories that take place in Storybrooke, Maine on the TV show Once Upon a Time, mostly just this side of magical, but tipping over into the inexplicable and downright creepy every so often.

I’d recommend the book for girls ages 13 and older who like a good fairy tale rendering. There’s too much “girly-stuff” in the book for most adolescent boys, and the book includes scenes of abuse and attempted assault (not graphic, but very real and scary) that might be disturbing to younger readers.

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