Welcome to today’s blog tour for Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. This is going to be one of the largest tours that Raincoast Books is hosting (and thanks to them for doing such a good job organizing everything). Since so many participants are doing the tour, things are set up a little bit differently. Half of the bloggers will be doing the author Q&A while the other half will be providing an excerpt from the book. I’ve been chosen to present the excerpt which you can see below. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy this week’s blog tour!
Published: September 20 2016
Number of pages: 296
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: fantasy, magic, supernatural
Rating: 2/5 owl hoots
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable and the rich wear stylish clothes, attend parties and sip cocktails on rooftops until sunset. A lot of Brooklyn is like that except for Vassa’s working class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, she lives with her stepmother and two annoying stepsisters. Babs Yaga, the owner of the local convenience store has a beheading policy for shoplifters and innocent shoppers too. When Vassa is sent out by her stepsister to go get some light bulbs, she knows it’s a suicide mission.
But Vassa has luck on her side. Hidden in her pocket is Erg, a magical talking wooden doll and a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a foul mouth, tough talking doll with sticky fingers, and with her help Vassa might have a chance to break the witch’s awful curse and free Brooklyn. But Bab’s won’t be playing fair.
I’m just going to say it: this is one of the weirdest and bizarre YA story I’ve ever read. When I heard that Vassa in the Night is inspired by Vassalissa the Beautiful, a Russian folktale I was immediately intrigued. Granted that I love reading fairy tale retellings and folk tales but this is by far, one of the strangest retellings I’ve read. There are no other words to explain my reaction as I was reading this, it went from interesting, to odd, to completely strange, and then really bizarre towards the end.
That’s not to say that I disliked the story, it was very…interesting and certainly something that I’ve never read in YA before, so it’s a very unique story in its’ own way. Add a cast of kooky and oddball characters and you’ve got a modern, twisted and very dark fairy tale retelling.
After Vassa meets Babs Yaga, the events that unfolded inside the convenience store were just really bizarre that it was hard to follow the storyline. On top of that, you have dream sequences that seem to entwine with reality that sometimes, it was hard for me to distinguish what was real or not. For instance, there was this chapter were Vassa and Night meet together and the whole thing felt surreal like a dream, but so did everything else that happened to Vassa inside Bab’s store that I was unsure if it really was a dream. That’s one of the difficulties that I had while reading was figuring out what was real while trying to follow through all the sad and unfortunate events that happened to Vassa as she tries to rescue her friends while going through ridiculous and gruesome trials from Bab’s, who is the worst boss to ever work for.
But what made me read on to the ending were the outlandish and funny characters. You have Bab’s, a mysterious and cranky witch with mood swings, her minions and helping hands (excuse the puns) Sinister and Dex who are really creepy to have around, and you have the mysterious and introverted motorcyclist later introduced as Night. All he ever does is bike around Bab’s store, acting like a guard while having the ability to enter into Vassa’s dreams. He doesn’t talk much and when he does, it’s like deciphering some secret code that he’s trying to pass on, which makes it harder for poor Vassa to even understand what she has to do in her mission; even I had a hard time comprehending his speech. Luckily she has clever and sneaky Erg on her side to get out of sticky messes! There are other characters like Pangolin and Picnic who I’m still confused how they fit into the story, it’s like they were tossed into the plot for comic relief.
I admit it was fun reading the cast of zany characters that really added humor to the story. But I still found it hard to follow what on earth was going on inside Bab’s store and the events that followed after Vassa decided to work there. I feel like this is one of those books were I have to reread passages in case I missed something or even the entire story to get my head around what’s happening in the plot. It’s an entertaining read but I think it would have been more enjoyable for me if the world building made more sense; in the end I just didn’t get it.
People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move in to the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in ware houses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and every one piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.
Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.
This isn’t even a slum. It’s a scrappy neither- nor where no one arrives. You just find yourself here for no real reason, the same way the streets and buildings did, squashed against a cemetery that sprawls out for miles. It has to be that big, because the dead of New York keep falling like snow but never melt. There’s an elevated train station where a few subway lines rattle overhead in their anxiety to get somewhere else. We have boarded-up appliance stores and nail salons, the Atlantis Wash and Lube, and a mortuary on almost every block. There are houses, the kind that bundle four families close together and roll them around in one another’s noise as if the ruckus was bread crumbs and somebody was going to come along soon and deep-fry us. Really, it’s such a nothing of a place that I have to dye my hair purple just to have something to look at. If it weren’t for those little zigs of color jumping in the corners of my eyes, I might start to think that I was going blind.
It seemed that way even before the nights started lasting such a very, very long time.