Napoli, Donna Jo. Zel. This is a re-telling of the fairy tale Repunzel. Listed as a YA, when I started the novel, I initially feared disappointment as it seemed written for a much younger (maybe elementary school) audience rather than for young adults. Knowing that I could get through it in a few hours, I decided to stick with it. And I'm so glad I did.
The novel moved from language and content appropriate for a child, to something appropriate for a young adolescent, to something much more. Style and content went hand in hand, an interesting approach that worked well with smooth and gradual transitions.
Even more interesting, this rendition of Repunzel is dark in a modern context; elements that are sublinated in traditional fairy tales are brought to the fore in this little novel. The narrative moves from third person to first person and back again. Mother tells the story in her own words; Zel and Konrad's stories are in third person, and the chapters move back and forth.
While keeping essential elements from the traditional story, this version is much more personal than classic fairy tales and, in its frank examination of love, greed, budding sexuality, and obsession--much more direct.
The end result, I think, is not a young adult novel, but a close examination of the sometimes disturbing psychological aspects that inspired the original tale and that are part of the human experience. Zel is a modern transformation -- perhaps better suited to adults who are fascinated by the study of fairy tales and their psychological implications. Which doesn't mean that young people wouldn't enjoy it, only that despite the simple language, there are truly adult themes at work.
Fiction. YA. Fairy Tale. 1996. 227 pages.