Whoever began the trend of fairy tale retellings is a mystery to me. All I know is that Alex Flinn’s books, especially Beastly and A Kiss in Time, were nice training wheels toward what is now a full-on obsession. I pick them up time and again when I need some fluffy fairy tale predictability, and now is another such time for Flinn’s Sleeping Beauty retelling, A Kiss in Time.
As a baby, Princess Talia of Euphrasia (now Belgium) was cursed to prick her finger on a spindle before her sixteenth birthday. Her paranoid parents warn her to never, under any circumstances, touch spindles, and thus, poor Talia becomes sheltered and lonely…until she encounters a strange woman sitting at a spinning wheel, and accidentally fulfills the curse. Three hundred years later, an American teenager named Jack stumbles into Talia’s forgotten kingdom, and, upon finding the unconscious princess, breaks the curse with a fateful kiss. But it’s not time for happily-ever-after just yet, because that kiss is just the beginning.
Fish-out-of-water stories are delicious to my reading tastes, especially that of a royal figure getting used to a more common lifestyle. Talia—a princess from post-Renaissance Europe—eating Chinese takeout and trying on a one-piece bathing suit is fun and funny, and it works because she is both fascinated and repulsed by it all. These different sensitivities also make for very compelling interactions. Talia has lived in a world without television and computers and other distractions, so she knows how to make people open up simply by talking to them—something that is lost on Jack and his disjointed family.
Talia and Jack have a wonderful dynamic in that they’re both frustrated teenagers looking for acceptance from their respective worlds. Once their different lives are established, the chapters alternate between their two distinctive voices and they’re both very easy to like. Also, their relationship has a delightfully rocky start. Normally, I’m wary of love-hate relationships, as they predictably fall into the former category, but Jack and Talia work because their worlds are set to collide from the terrific setup of their respective problems. I just can’t fault good chemistry.
I picture Talia and I see Disney’s Princess Aurora, but with a perpetual smirk and a glow of curiosity. She also starts off as kind of a brat, which, combined with her bite and her innocent princess touch, makes her one of the more dynamic incarnations of Sleeping Beauty I’ve read. The original story never had an active heroine (she did spend a majority of the story asleep), but here, she undergoes a very believable character arc. As does Jack, the other half of this story’s romantic pair.
Jack struggles to find common ground with his family, especially his businessman father. Although Jack comes across as a slacker, he actually has a lot of passion and is very protective of his friends. When compared to Talia, there are more moments of vulnerability and innocence that chip away at Jack’s blasé and bored attitude, which, again, equals good character dimension.
Whether you enjoyed the fairy tale or not, A Kiss in Time has enough fun and energy in it that it’ll make for a nice escape into a modern happily ever after.