An important part of working at a public library is knowing which books are suitable for young adults or children when parents are looking for suggestions. I introduced Fairest to a woman looking for a birthday present for her 13-year-old niece, and she was quite pleased.
Levine, author of the popular Ella Enchanted, brings us a tale loosely based on Snow White. Aza is a very gifted singer with a very homely outward appearance. Her ugliness was the cause of her abandonment as a baby, though she was cared for and loved by innkeepers. At 15, Aza has discovered that beyond her singing capabilities, she can also throw and mimic any voice. By chance, she gets to accompany a duchess to a royal wedding, where the new queen, Ivi, discovers Aza's secret talents. Ivi blackmails Aza into becoming her personal attendant and throwing her voice to make the queen sound like a beautiful singer. When the court discovers the deception, Aza must flee the castle to save her life.
I enjoyed the message that will be vital to young readers; beauty isn't everything. Character and self-worth are more important. I also liked that the book was fast-paced, warm, and not preachy. Only one thing annoyed me. Because the book takes place in a land called Ayortha, where singing was valued above all else, there were a ton of songs. It got old pretty fast, although I could totally see a movie musical being made from this book.