on April 10, 2012
Storybound gives a fun and unique take on how all of our favorite stories have been created: from Fairy Tales to Pirate Lore to Cowboy Westerns. They're all created in the world of Story. When a girl from our world enters Story, however, everything begins to change. Una Fairchild finds herself transported from her school to a school in Story, where her fellow students are training to become characters: Heroes, Villains, Ladies, even Sidekicks and Beasts. She must learn who to trust as she tries to figure out why she was brought to Story in the first place, and how she can help its enemies from destroying the world completely.
Storybound is refreshing in that, while it is a middle grade novel, it is not written down for children. Many times when I read books geared for such a young audience, there is a certain self-consciousness to the book; I am never unaware that I am, in fact, reading a book. Storybound allowed me to fully immerse in the world Burt created. The descriptions of Story are vivid, and the characters all have plenty of nuance. For a book that deals with the stereotypes of stories, her characters have many shades of gray that make them real.
The language and syntax is simple enough for children to read, but as a parent and an English teacher, I was happy to see a handful of words that might encourage young hands to reach for a dictionary. The twists in the plot found the balance of holding the attention of older readers, while not confusing its intended audience.
I eagerly await its sequel.
on February 1, 2013
Marissa Burt's Storybound is a wonderful fantasy middle grade novel kids will definitely enjoy, but that writers will absolutely adore. There are tinges of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, but Storybound is very much it's own thing and the perfect bedtime story for authors everywhere:)
And now, the fantasy of every fiction writer who ever lived and most readers: Imagine one day you're in the library browsing for a book and you find one with your name on it:
"Curious," Una murmured. She flipped the book every which way but found no inscription. It sat fat and heavy in her hand, and she paused for a moment before opening the beautiful filigreed cover. All the pages had the same pretty silver lining, and Una turned them with reverent fingers. Then she stopped. She stared hard at the first page. "The Tale of Una Fairchild," it said in a sharp black script. She read the line again, wondering if she was imagining things. She was Una Fairchild.
How many Una Fairchilds could there be?
What if that book was your story, Esteemed Reader? What if it and some creepy elf dudes sucked you into the book and you were not only the star of your own story, but you could help shape it? If you're a fiction writer (and you're here, so you probably are) I know that's your fantasy (elf dudes aside), because isn't that why we write in the first place? To be sucked into the story of our choosing and to craft it?
To be fair, that's not exactly what happens to Una. She gets sucked into the land of Story with Peter, the good looking hero, a snobbish lady, and a talking cat (of course there's a talking cat!). It's worth noting Burt is too smart to bomb the reader with exposition the way I just did. Instead, she sucks Una into the middle of an action-packed dragon battle and makes Una work to figure out where she is.
Before long, Una's enrolled in classes learning about genre dialogue, experiential questioning, and history, here called backstory (love it). All the characters are very much aware they're characters, but Una herself is a WI, or Write In (so much fun). Una gets into all kinds of trouble in Story, learning new details about her parents' disappearance and what it means to direct your own story. There's too much detail to get into in one review or one book as Storybound ends with "TO BE CONTINUED..."
I have no doubt kids will enjoy Storybound, but this story simply demands to be read by writers, who will love it the most. There are so many inside jokes for just us book lovers, it's as though Marissa Burt is sitting beside you with her own pumpkin latte, and you're having a fun chat about a mutual love of writing and craft. For what else can this paragraph be if not a discussion of characterization:
"But everyone can't be a Hero or a Villain," Una said.
Peter pushed an overgrown branch out of the way. "Well, that's not exactly true. Most characters in Story are pretty clear-cut. You either learn how to save the day or how to try and destroy everything."
"But that's not right," Una argued. "In real life, no one is completely good or completely bad. People are mixed-up jumbles of everything." She told Peter about one of the mean girls at Saint Anselm's who made fun of kids for the clothes they wore but always gave money to the homeless man who sat at the bus stop.
"Well, things are different in stories," Peter said.
"You're telling me," Una said.
Not all the discussions are aimed at readers. Burt does a nice job of inserting some truths for children along the way without ever preaching, such as in this discussion of the objects coveted by villains:
"Knowledge," said a boy wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Una thought he was the same boy she had seen the night before in the Woodland Room.
Professor Thornhill paused at that. "Why knowledge, Mr. Truepenny?"
"Because knowledge is power," he said. His dark hair fell over one eye. "An evil Villain controls knowledge, both what is spread about and what is withheld. That is how he can gain power."
"Very good, Mr. Truepenny," the professor said quietly. She was looking at Una now. "Truth is one of the most powerful weapons against evil. And wisdom, which enables us to discern how to apply the truth. Without truth and wisdom, how would we be able to tell the difference between the evil and the good?
There's actually quite an undercurrent of conspiracy and shadow government throughout Storybound, hinting at a darker sequel. But the bulk of Storybound is humorous and fun. Burt's got some substance to share, but mostly she wants to show the reader a good time, and few things in fiction are so admirable. We all could use a good time now and again and I'm still laughing about the "Snow White" type character abusing the woodland creatures contractually obligated to do her bidding Fred Flintstone style.
And that's going to do it. I hope you're digging the new review style, Esteemed Reader. Sorry I didn't have time to make it shorter:)
I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from Storybound:
"I basically saved your life." Peter looked very pleased with himself. "Like it or not, I'm your hero."
Una thought about what she had learned in class back at Saint Anselm's. Governments that controlled what people read did it in order to control the people.
"And then they would whisk Una off to wherever they take those who disagree with them."
"...You must remember that the roots of the tree are buried deep in Story's soil," she said, and leaned in so close that Una could see her toothless smile. "Schoolchildren should always learn their Backstory."
"Besides, I don't think characters have ever been big readers. Too busy doing."
on July 12, 2012
Imagine you're an actor on a long standing television series. Life is good, you have steady work, a steady paycheck, and you've gotten to know your character pretty well. And then one day, reading your script for the next episode, you realize something horrible. You're being written out. Written out! You're done. How much does that feeling suck?
Now, imagine that you're a book lover going about your everyday business. One day, while reading, you find yourself suddenly displaced and surrounded by...well...the story. You've been written in. Written in! Is that feeling not as elating as the feeling of being written out was crappy? Welcome to the joy of Marissa Burt's Storybound.
Storybound is one of those incredibly aptly named books that works on many levels, the most literal being that Una is bound for Story, the land where characters are trained for parts, and live out the stories we read. The young (people and talking animals, and I'd assume other creatures as well) go to school to train to become a part. They take classes as heroes, villains, ladies, and more. There appear to be many different areas of Story, but Storybound is concerned with the fantasy realm, wherein those stories we know as fairy tales are enacted. Honestly, even having read it, I'm not 100% clear on how it all works, but here's the best explanation that I found:
"Peter shook his head. "It's not like that. We don't read the stories. Oh, we know about the famous characters and all," he said, and pointed to Lenora, "But it's people out there, in the land of the Readers who read our Tales."
Una looked at the pixie's smiling face. The land of the Readers. Like the one where Una had come from. Like home. "So when someone reads `Lenora in Neverland,' Lenora is acting it out here?"
Peter was staring back at the kitchens. "Right. Although it's not acting so much as living out a Tale.""
When Una finds herself written in (WI) to Story, it becomes clear to her and her new friend Peter that there is a serious plot afoot. They're just not sure quite what. There haven't been any WIs since they were all killed when the Muses broke their oaths and the Tale Keepers took control. Some believe that the Muses are still out there, and that a King will someday return to rule Story, while others jostle for power over the people. Una needs to find out why she's in Story, and what exactly has happened in the past to bring the land to where it is today.
There were many good aspects of Storybound. It took a whopping six pages to really get into the action, and it didn't really let up for the duration. Marissa Burt cleverly took elements of two trends that are currently very popular--fairy tale retellings and dystopias--and utilized them in a unique way. The political situation in Story is very like that we see in a dystopian novel. Knowledge is being kept from the masses as a form of control, an inevitable underground rebellion is forming, you know the drill. Match that with the twist of a world where people are raised to perform as the fairy tale characters we all know and love, and you have some fantastic story elements.
Unfortunately, for me, Storybound didn't really pan out. The plot seemed convoluted, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I'm not sure if there were too many characters with not enough development, lack of strong enough world building, too complicated of a back-story...I honestly can't say. It just didn't really click for me, but I do feel that each of those things played a role. Storybound was a book that didn't show you the story, it told you the story. I didn't feel anything because as a reader I wasn't connected to the characters or their adventures.
The characters to me weren't logical, their actions and personalities seemed inconsistent to me. For example, Snow seemed like a classic shallow mean girl, but when her `depth' was shown, her mean girl actions made less sense to me. She supposedly genuinely likes Peter, and yet in their school practical she's snippy, mean, and sits around filing her nails. I understand the concept of putting up a mean front as a shield, but not in this way when alone with someone you both genuinely like and need to succeed for a passing grade to achieve your goals. Then, for a logic example, there is a point during another observed exam, where Una is careful of what she says, knowing it will be recorded, but not careful about what she does. Are actions not recorded as well? Also, when Una is first written in to Story, she is wearing a cape and wielding a knife, and never really seems to bat an eye about this. Where do these objects come from? I get that she's not a chicken, but she's cool with knife wielding out of nowhere? I just don't see it.
Too much about Storybound was inconsistent, or unexplained for me. I think the difference between an okay story and a great story is the ability to evoke emotion in readers, and immerse them in a way that makes them feel part of the story. Ironically, I did not feel like I was in any way written in to Storybound.
on April 3, 2012
Storybound by Marissa Burt is the perfect book for lovers of middle grade fantasy and adventure. From the first few chapters, the reader will be sucked into the land of Story, just as Una Fairchild is.
Marissa Burt did a great job building the characters in Storybound. There were a lot of characters, but none of them ended up falling flat - each had their own story to add. Una Fairchild, the confused protagonist lost in a strange world and there's Peter who desperately trying to live up to his family name and be a hero. And of course his family with their secrets, and Sam the sarcastic cat. It's even hard not to love Snow, the mean girl from a broken home.
Despite the various point of view changes throughout Storybound - often without warning - it's easy enough to follow along. In fact, the changes in point of view actually make sense and make up a necessary element of Storybound.
The worldbuilding and storytelling in Storybound was done wonderfully. There's so many fantastical elements that make up the land of Story and all the rules that go along with it. Muses, tale keepers, villains, heroes, ladies, etc - each had an important role to play but Marissa Burt was able to build it all up without overwhelming the reader.
Any lover of fairy tales is bound to enjoy Storybound by Marissa Burt. Storybound is engaging and full of mysteries and adventure, as well as beautiful world building and characters that you can't help but love.
on February 1, 2015
Well this took a turn.
The tone this book starts out with is very middle grade, very fun, very simple prose. I didn't enjoy it, I thought character motivation was sometimes unclear among other faults, but it was fine and fun. Then very abruptly things got quite dark, but the prose didn't shift to match. It was weird. Events became very dark but the way they were told... wasn't. I don't know how to make that make sense for you. There was no further interiority and no help from the narration. For instance, at one point, Peter thinks that Sam is dead and the best the narrator can do for his grief is to say "when all his tears were spent he carefully picked up the body" or something to that extent (the book is all the way across the room and I don't want to get up to check). It keeps that fast moving, unfocused narration but suddenly it's dealing with things that really need to be better dealt with. He's dead, but let's move along, shall we? That kind of prose worked in the beginning when it was a fairly safe adventure story, but it felt SO out of place later in the book. How can you expect me to grieve with a character if I don't even see him grieve?
PLUS, and this one really gets me, when Snow and her mother are kidnapped, the bad guys are trying to get the mother to talk. Snow can't see what's happening, but she hears the boss say to the other guy "fine then, have your fun," and then her mother started screaming. So.... rape or torture? And both are VERY wrong for this book. Alarmingly so. I was shocked when I read that. Up until that point it was very middle grade. And, I mean, Percy Jackson is middle grade and has lots of violence and such, but this book does not read like Percy Jackson, it doesn't have the prosaic sophistication to deal with this stuff. To find out what happened to her you have to read the next book, which I don't know if I'm going to do.
It's like half way through the book a decision was made that it needed to appeal to older audiences, so they tried to make it darker or something. That's very much what it felt like. Because something like that should never have been in this book.
So, I don't know, it reads too young for older readers, but it has stuff that's too sketchy for younger readers. It felt disjointed, and like it was trying to be too many things.
on March 3, 2015
I went into Storybound with an open mind as I'd never read Middle Grade before. Well, it wasn't really my thing, but a big issue I had with it had nothing to do with its target audience. I do think there's a good story here, but the problem is, it didn't go anywhere. This was essentially a super long prequel. Una is just a regular girl until she's teleported into a storybook with her name on it. She makes a friend in Peter, and the two of them work together to figure out why she's been written in. There's also a larger plot at play involving lies and betrayals, but really, none of that comes until the very end and then it just...ends.
Storybound has a lot of things that I do like. I love alternate worlds, and have read one series previously about teens getting sucked into a book and having to save the people living in it. I was expecting something like that, and I suspect that's going to come in the second book since it certainly didn't happen here. I did enjoy this fantasy world though. The citizens are all of a character type (hero, villain, lady, etc), and in the past they had lived out the stories that we read in our world. There's not just a fantasy realm, but also modern and pioneer, and I'm sure all kinds of other places that we read about all the time. It was very imaginative.
Unfortunately, I didn't care for any of the characters which kept me from fully getting into Storybound, since the plot is quite character driven. Una is in seventh grade, is a foster kid, and likes to hang out at the library. That's really the extent of what we're told about her. The story gets going right away, so it's mostly just Una reacting to stuff and doing stuff. No real character development at all. Peter wasn't much better, and then there's an assortment of side characters. Snow is probably the one who was most developed even though she got the least page time.
Sadly, Storybound mostly bored me. I didn't care about the characters and everything was just so dragged out! Nothing gets resolved! Una and Peter do make some progress in their quest, and I figured out part of why Una was sent into Story, but who sent her there still wasn't revealed. Once the action gets going in the last couple of chapters, it all just ends. I knew it was a duology going in, but I expected more than just an extended prequel.
on April 21, 2013
Admission time: I picked this book up to skim through just to "approve" it before handing it off to my daughter, but I ended up reading the whole thing in a day. It's not only mother ok'd, it's now fully endorsed!
The story is full of rich characters and relationships, yet free of smart alecky main characters, potty humor, cursing, and love triangles. The premise is unique and I enjoyed learning about the land of Story along with Una. There were many elements that made me think of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series (although admittedly the allegory is not nearly as richly developed here). Una is confused and frightened at times, but she doesn't give up, doesn't turn into a whiny brat, and is able to make some pretty remarkable friends.
A warning, though: once you read this one, you'll be unable to prevent yourself from picking up the sequel, Story's End
on August 16, 2015
My daughter just finished this book and was spellbound by the story! She couldn't read fast enough and is desperate for book 2! Thank you Marissa Burt for writing a novel that will capture the attention of an eight year old in this digital world! Excellent book and she highly recommends it to all of her friends!
on November 15, 2014
I had been wanting to read this story for a while. It ended up being okay, but was a bit slow at parts with characters that weren’t all that engaging.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was actually very well done. The narrator did an excellent job on character voices and it made for a pleasant listen.
This is a story about a young girl named Una Fairchild who gets Written In (WI) to the Land of Story. There she has to figure out why she's a WI and who wrote her in. The Land of Story is in upheaval and it might be up to Una to save it.
This is really just the first half of the story. Nothing is resolved and the book ends right in the middle of the story...something I am not overly fond of.
The above being said I thought this book was decent but not great. I really enjoyed the idea of characters being written into stories (it was a like a simplified version of the Thursday Next series). I also enjoyed the idea of characters being type-cast and trained to be the sorts of characters they are assigned to be.
Unfortunately I thought our heroine, Una, was extremely abrasive and obnoxious. I also thought the initial description of her as a quiet loner did not at all fit how she acted in Story...which was generally aggressive and easily offended. There were a few contradictions like that throughout the story.
I also just got kind of bored with it all about halfway through. The story is fairly predictable and there is alot about the politics of the realm, which got a bit slow at points. In the end, even though it ends mid-story, I really wasn't all that curious about what will happen to these characters.
Overall this is an okay story but nothing exceptional. The story was slow at parts,.predictable, and I thoroughly disliked the main character of Una. As a result, I probably won't read Story's End which ties up this duology.
on December 4, 2014
Welcome to the land of Story, a place where the characters from your books spring off of the page and students can study to perfect their character types. Sounds like a book lover’s dream, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if not for the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Unbinding, an event brought on by Muses who abused their literary powers. Now, with the land under the control of Tale Keepers and the threat of a great Enemy’s return, Story needs a hero.
Enter Una Fairchild, a perfectly ordinary girl from the real world, who suddenly finds herself written into the narrative and in very grave danger. Una, along with hero-in-training Peter Merriweather and talking cat Sam, waste no time getting themselves into grave danger as they delve into the secrets of Story. Most importantly, why has Una been written in, and why is she being pursued by so many different forces?
Storybound is fast-paced and action-packed, and lovers of fantasy will enjoy trying to guess what happens next.
This review originally appeared on abookandahug.com