RATING: creepy Bizarre Read (2) // AMAZON
PAGES: 296 PAGES | PUBLISHER: Tor Teen
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
The cover is eye-catching online, and in person it’s even prettier. Night plays an important aspect in the book, and I love how prevalent it is on the cover. I like how the silhouette of the Brooklyn skyline and bridge manage to almost blend into the night sky if you don’t pause to take a closer look. The red is a nice pop against the black, and it’s always interesting to see how many little details can be hidden in a cover, like the swan reference.
I really wanted to like Vassa in the Night. It’s a retelling of the Russian folktale Vasilisa the Beautiful, which I hadn’t heard before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I love retellings, and I’d never read one based on a Russian myth. I was intrigued by the magic in Porter’s Brooklyn, but unfortunately I was disappointed by Vassa in the Night.
My main problem with this book was that I honestly had no idea what was going on for most of it. Vassa in the Night is a weird and bizarre story, but that’s also one of its selling points. Unfortunately it might have been a read that was too out there for me. I was never able to fully grasp the story, so it felt like I was missing out on multiple important parts throughout the book. It seemed like I was running blindly in a never-ending maze and somehow barely managed to stumble upon the exit.
Also I couldn’t connect with Vassa. The main plot point is that Vassa has to go to the local convenience store run by Babs Yagg, which is infamous for cutting off the heads of shoplifters. Basically avoid the place at all costs unless you have a death wish. Yet for some reason Vassa decides to venture out in the depths of night to buy some light bulbs to prove something to her stepsister that we really never get to understand. Her recklessness annoyed me at points, and having her as a narrator was confusing. She doesn’t quite understand her strange situation, making her a very unreliable narrator and me even more lost and confused.
Although I did have problems with Vassa in the Night, I have to admit that Porter created quite the creepy magical world filled with convenience stores that behead shoplifters, severed hands that have their own will, talking dolls, and nights that never seem to end. Reading this book was was like an escape into a fantastical and surreal world. There was a lot to like about this world, but there were many questions left unanswered.
One of the interesting things about this book is the sort-of lack of romance. It’s hinted that Vassa might have a crush on a guy, but he’s not even that relevant to the story and honestly I would have been fine if he was never mentioned. He was basically there to be a somewhat interesting twist. Essentially there wasn’t really any romance, which is hard to find in YA.
I’m sad to say that I was not a fan of Vassa in the Night. I really truly wanted to love this book, but it just wasn’t for me. I was confused and clueless for the majority of the book, which caused the story to drag on. It was a bizarre read filled with eccentric characters and peculiar magic and a creepy world. Although it wasn’t my favorite, I believe fans of retellings and creepy peculiar reads will enjoy it.