Wyatt is sent by his mother to live in the middle of nowhere with the Mrs. Greenwood, mother of his mother's friend. Slatskill, NY does not even have its own movie theater and Wyatt is going to go to school online for the year, but Wyatt does not mind. He is trying to escape bad memories from his past and he is unable to move on from a tragedy that took away his best friend. He enjoys his time with Mrs. Greenwood, who mourns her daughter who ran away years ago. Rachel lives in an old tower kept away from the world, because "Mama" is afraid that the people who killed Rachel's real mother will try to kill Rachel too. Rachel learns about the world from books like Wuthering Heights and Little Women and remembers little of the outside world. However she begins dreaming of a boy and when her abnormally long hair begins to grow even quicker than usually she cuts it and makes a rope. Wyatt keeps hearing this beautiful voice that no one else seems to notice. When their two worlds collide, both Wyatt and Rachel must have the strength to fight for each other and fight the real villains in the town who are targeting teens. With magical tears mixed with the tears of grief, the two may overcome the losses of the past, to have a real future.
I love Alex Flinn's retellings. She stuck with the traditional element of Rapunzel with healing tears and long hair, but she gives Rachel the power to cut her hair and become the heroine instead of the damsel in distress. On their first meeting, Rachel using her cut braided hair as a rope swings down and rescues Wyatt from drowning. Awesome! Rachel is naïve based on her many years locked away, but she is brave. I also liked that the villain is not the person you would think. In the traditional Rapunzel, Gothel steals Rapunzel away, based on her parents' greed for the plant, but in Flinn's story the "Gothel" character is actually one who is trying to save Rachel from the true villains. I don't want to give too much away, but the use of the plant as a hallucinogenic drug was really clever, since in the original tale, it was the mother's desire for rampion that cost her the child. Both Rachel and Wyatt and Rapunzel and her prince find a way to be together despite all the odds.
Favorite Character: Wyatt. Wyatt is strong, a typical teen boy, and dealing with guilt he should not have. He is a good guy, who made a bad choice, but a completely understandable one. He lost a friend based on this. He does typical guy things too, like leading one of the girls on, but then Rachel turns him around. He learns from his mistakes and learns to forgive himself.
Favorite Quote: "If the world was gone wrong, would you be one of the people fighting against the problem or one of the people ignoring it?" "If you're not a hero, does that make you a villain?" "I don't think so. That would make just about everyone a villain then. The real villains are the one who are actually commanding the evil robots to destroy the hero." Actually this is probably more a conversation than a quote, but it was a wonderful way to look at guilt. Inaction does not make us a villain, even if we are not the hero and things don't end well.
With magic and grief rolled into one, this retelling shows the beauty of the original tale with a modern twist. 5 cups of cocoa!