Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near

A review by Nalini Haynes

Trigger warning: suicide, mental health issues

Isola Wilde is a Child of Nimue, or a human who can see the fae. She lives in a house at the edge of the wood. An only child, she has 6 brother-princes: ‘adopted’ siblings who are human, fae, ghosts and one Fury. They’re all ‘brothers’ because, in fairy tales, sisters are evil.

Every day Isola wanders into the woods. One day she sees a corpse in a cage. The ghost-girl haunts Isola, changing everything.

Isola’s best friend is Grape, a Japanese girl whose budding sexuality reveals her as queer, yet another difference that sets her apart, making her a victim at school. They’ve been friends forever but now, at high school, their relationship is rocky although Isola has no issues with Grape’s sexuality. On the contrary, she wants to matchmake.

Isola meets a nice boy, Edgar, but she fears the ghost-girl may kill him.

Isola’s most beloved possession is a book by Lileo Pardieu, a French author, who wrote bleak fairytales in a hardcover with gilt-edged pages. Although the stories may have been Grimm-related, all are unique. Many of these short fairytales are shared through the course of Fairytales for Wilde Girls along with some gorgeous illustrations.

Fantasy and horror combined made Fairytales for Wilde Girls a challenging read for me; I’m not a fan of horror. When Isola sees her name spelt in blood for the third or fourth time, it’s getting a bit much. In the end, all is explained: it’s foreshadowing, although somewhat indirect. I mostly enjoyed the literary references but it’s possible to repeat one motif too many times.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a YA book for those not faint of heart. A teen suicide occurs early on. Isola’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and Isola’s journey appears to be a descent into psychosis. Aware that people think she may inherit her mother’s mental health problems, making Isola doubt herself. However, Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a successful feminist take on fairytales for contemporary audiences. Highly recommended.

Awards

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781742758510
Format: ebook, 432 pages
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s (Penguin Random House)

Fairytales for Wilde Girls