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Creeping Beauty

By Andrea Portes

Reviewed by Melissa Salisbury

Andrea Portes is the author of two adult novels and a number of young adult novels, including Anatomy of a Misfit.
In this the re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, Princess Elizabeth ‘Bitsy” Roix is destined to live a life fulfilling dynastic expectations and diplomatic obligations. More plain and homely than beautiful and graceful, her role in life is to marry and be gracious. However, Bitsy despairs at the future mapped out for her.
Upon meeting an unappealing prince who her parents wish her to marry, she escapes into the depths of the castle and finds a room with a spindle, where she pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep. Bitsy enters an alternate dimension, where it is her wits and bravery, not her skills as a princess, that she must rely on if she has any hope of returning home.
Bitsy faces many challenges in a cutthroat, self-absorbed world where beauty determines your status. She has no way of getting home and no one has even heard of Roix. So, after her initial attempts to return home fail, she ultimately battles to save the wretched and poor from a life spent toiling under dangerous conditions to serve the rich and beautiful.
Told in first person and complemented by excerpts from her father’s journal which hint at another version of events, the story keeps the reader guessing about what could possibly happen next as Bitsy faces challenges in a strange world where she doesn’t know the rules or the players.
Portes’ prose is enjoyable to read and strikes a good balance between description and action. Likewise, the character of Bitsy is sympathetic, and the reader will want to see her succeed, especially given what she is up against.
Creeping Beauty features a romantic entanglement which perhaps doesn’t quite strike the right note given the character, Peregrine, sells Bitsy to someone known to be abusive and cruel.
There are a few loose ends that aren’t fully explained, which relate to the journal entries of her father [to comment more would spoil the plot]. And ultimately the reason for Bitsy’s slumber and subsequent escapade, and the related message of female empowerment, doesn’t quite hit the mark, for this reviewer anyway.
However, for teens who enjoy more subversive stories with a fantastical element, Creeping Beauty will likely deliver the goods.
HarperCollins 2023
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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