If a random person had handed me a copy of Shannon Hale’s novel, Ever After High: The Story Book of Legends, I might have flipped through the pages and admired the stunning design, skimmed a page or two and handed it back unread. I would not have known what I was missing.
Fortunately for me, the person who handed me the book was Sarah, the granddaughter mentioned in the two previous posts. This book moved into her life, luring her away into remote corners of the house and keeping her up half the night.
When Sarah finished reading the book, she began talking about it in fascinating depth and detail. She mentioned that the characters were the children of fairy tale people like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, and a long list of others. These charmed children all attended Ever After High the boarding school for all descendants of legendary characters. In a keystone event, second year students ceremonially claimed their legacy and pledged to relive their ancestral stories to keep those stories alive for the world. Should they refuse, the story and all characters in it would go POOF!
Sarah was intrigued by the fact that Raven Queen, the daughter of the Evil Queen (who poisoned Snow White), didn’t want to relive her mother’s life. She explained that the book was about Raven’s adventures as she made up her mind whether to sign the pledge. She loaned me the 300 page book to read, but reclaimed it when I was only 50 pages in so she could read it again herself. I was so intrigued that I downloaded the Kindle version.
I quickly discovered that this book is masterfully crafted, multilayered and rich, and definitely not just for kids. Raven’s struggles with self and with others are heroic, her insights profound. The issues she struggles with – personal identity, self-determination, and more – are epic and universal. Every page sizzles with action.
The part that gave me goose bumps was the insight about Story and its power to shape lives. Raven helped all the other characters, both royal and common (yes, they did have discrimination issues there), see that they are the masters of their own stories, something precious few adults in today’s world realize. They are not bound by the past – they can write new versions. They are free to write their own “Happily ever after” stories with an entirely new cast of characters if they wish. In fact, they write stories forward as well as recording the past.
That message fits perfectly with the noblest mission of memoir: process the past, pick your own path, and write a bright future.
There’s so much more to be said about this book, about finding and following Truth, about Story and differences, and many more things, but I’ll leave it to you to read and discover as you wish. I’m grateful this astute young lass convinced me to read it.
I was thrilled that Sarah was eager to discuss the book and already seemed to understand that she doesn’t have to live like anyone else, that she can invent her own life. She was excited that the book put this hunch into words and brought it to life for her. She has many years to map out and edit her “blueprint” story, and a lot more years to revise as she goes.
This book may shape her life in some small way. Isn’t that what we all hope for, that a book, a story, even a few words we write may shape someone’s life? That can happen, but only if we write!
Write now: take a cue from Ever After High. Spend some time considering how closely you are bound to the story lived by one of your parents or other relatives. Write a few stories about the similarities between you. Explore aspects of your story you’d like to change, then write a new story with the direction you prefer. Share that story if you like, or tuck it away and let it work its magic, leading you along the path you wrote of.