Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.
In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.
These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!
Featuring writing from . . .
Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon
BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).
Description taken from Goodreads.
What pleasantly me the most about this anthology was that it actually managed to open me up to new writers and their work. In the past, I looked for the same qualities in short story anthologies such as this one that I do in regular novels, and I tended to love writers I already knew and appreciated. But here, more than anything else, I was looking for content, for ability to delve deep under the surface of human nature and demonstrate what makes a villain just like all the rest of us.
It wasn’t the authors I thought it would be. Here are some brief thoughts on the ones I had the strongest opinions about:
The Blood of Imuriv by Renée Ahdieh
All of the above aside, I believe Renée Ahdieh definitely takes the cake for my favorite story in this anthology. Her incredible writing combined with her vlogger partner’s idea was the most compelling and the best executed. She showed us the genius of the idea rather than telling us all about it, and she really got under the skin of her villain. Even though it wasn’t a well-known story, just a concept that the vlogger thought up, the story had clarity and meaning.
Renée’s was the first short story in the anthology, and it set a precedent for the rest of them. After that point, what I wanted was to have a visceral, real understanding of the villain and see what he or she was going through the way that I did at the end of the first story.
I wasn’t super into Renée Ahdieh, not the way the rest of the blogosphere was, but I did greatly enjoy her writing. Now, I have to check out her other works. 4.5 stars.
Jack by Ameriie
I’d never heard of Ameriie before, but I was drawn into her writing by the introduction to the anthology. She perfectly summed up why it is that we love villains. In the span of just a few pages, she humanized everyone in the category of “villain” and made me rethink my own definition of the word.
Sadly, her story wasn’t quite as impressive. It was still great; there were pockets of the writing I’d seen before in the introduction. It just wasn’t all there. I had to read the ending a few times to fully grasp the changes that had occurred in the main character. The intention was right, the lesson was great, the villain was understandable–unfortunately, it was the writing here that threw me off. If it had been a little less implicit where the transitions happened and when/how the character had a change of mind, I would’ve enjoyed this more.
I was pretty disappointed when I came to that conclusion, because once I realized what the lesson was and what the overarching story was about, I thought it was a fantastic idea. Hoping for more from her. 3 stars.
Gwen and Art and Lance by Soman Chainani
I love Soman Chainani’s retellings. Period, the end. While I didn’t think this was his finest work (I mean–the entire thing is told in text messages. Not a whole lot you can do stylistically there), I love love loved the interpretation of Gwen and Art and Lance. Admittedly, this one was just one step away from being in the same predicament as Ameriie’s story, but Chainani pulled it together well.
The reason why this one was so great to me was because it got into the heads of the characters. It managed to show what each of them was thinking even through text, and it made them all believable. While Gwen does some pretty despicable, manipulative things to Lance and Art, she’s still just a girl trying to make it through. I never understood why Guinevere would leave Arthur for Lancelot in the King Arthur Legend. There was a huge component missing there in terms of her humanity and emotions in the situation she faced, and Chainani filled those gaps. 4 stars.
Shirley and Jim by Susan Dennard
Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a fan of Susan Dennard, but Shirley and Jim didn’t impress me too much. For one thing, it felt terribly contrived. For another, I didn’t care about the characters or the story until the very end, and then it was only a little bit. The twist was weak, and the majority of the story was just a girl falling in love with a boy. This was a villain trope I was hoping to see, but I wanted to see it done remarkably well. Shirley and Jim doesn’t fall into that category.
I also thought that Dennard lost a bit of the spirit of Holmes and Watson in the writing of the story. The whole point of Holmes and Watson is that they’re best friends, solving mysteries together and fighting against Moriarty. We don’t see any of that, not really the bond between Shirley and Jean or how they go against Jim. This is more of an origin story than anything else, and I wanted more from it. 1.5 stars.
You, You, It’s All About You by Adam Silvera
I tend not to read LGBT lit, so I’ve never actually read Adam Silvera’s work until I got to this anthology, and holyyyy. Let me just say that if he wrote fantasy and this was a full-length novel, I would buy it. I would read it. I would love it. He set up an intriguing, in-depth world in a matter of paragraphs, in a way that was 100% easy to understand but still very compelling. I hate to make comparisons like this, so please don’t take it the wrong way, but I can see the MC as a female Kaz Brekker. The only criticism I would note is that things felt a little bit rushed at the end, like Silvera was trying to stress his point and make sure people got her backstory. Given a page or two (or just a paragraph) more, I think things would’ve balanced themselves out. There was just enough brutality to the story and a look into the mind of a girl who would shamelessly rewrite someone’s life.
Now that I think about it though, I can see where people may say that her backstory wasn’t too strong. I didn’t notice it while I was reading–which I think is a testament to Silvera’s writing ability–but her backstory is the standard abusive father cliché. In my opinion, Silvera pulled it off. 4 stars.
Indigo and Shade by April Genevieve Tucholke
I knew I’d read something by April Genevieve Tucholke before, but I couldn’t remember what it was. Turns out that I’m not her fan, because I’ve disliked everything I’ve read by her before, but if she continues writing like this, I could come on board with her work.
Indigo and Shade wasn’t very complex or deep, but I enjoyed it a lot. I loved how Tucholke took a cocky, arrogant boy we all know (Gaston) and made him into someone with regrets, someone who loved. This could be called an origin story as well, for a different timeline Beauty and the Beast, but it brought fresh eyes to the tale and made me want to know more about the characters. 3 stars.
All things considered, I’m glad I picked up Because You Love to Hate Me. I got to see new authors, old ones I was happy to see, and old ones I was not so happy to see, but I ended up loving the work of a few from each category. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t enjoy Marissa Meyer and Victoria Schwab’s stories as much as I thought I would. Not a diss to either of them; I love both of them with all my heart. It wasn’t my cup of tea this time. I wanted more from Marissa’s character’s motivations, and while I enjoyed Schwab’s writing, there was something lacking to the overarching story.
One more that I wanted to highlight but didn’t have a major opinion on was Cindy Pon’s Beautiful Venom. In the past, I’ve been opposed to Cindy Pon for a number of reasons, but this was my first time sampling one of her works. It was enough that I gained an interest, so I’ll likely be looking into her stuff in the future.
I would recommend this one to anyone who has loved a literary villain. There were a few stories like Pon’s where it was me, not the short story, and each one will be received a little differently by everyone. It’s a great way to get to know these amazing writers. One last thing before I close out–I wasn’t into the vlogger contribution to the book. Many of the essays felt like blog posts or add-on material, some of which felt a bit forced. I love the idea of the collaboration and the prompts the vloggers gave the authors, but in practice, I wasn’t sure what was supposed to have been achieved. I ended up skimming through most of them. If you follow these vloggers, I’m sure you’ll have a different experience than I did.