I have been meaning to read this one for a long time. I bought it (in hardcover) at ALA for either 3 or 5 dollars, and then was lucky enough to get the author to sign it. I figure it was time to read it. I really enjoyed Beastly. And, I also secretly loved the movie, even though it was very different from the book and had some terrible acting in it. While a part of me cringes every time they announce a new YA book turned to movie, the girly part of me that will never grow up squeals with joy. I got the movie version of Beastly via Netflix, and actually re-watched it a couple of times…
But to Cloaked, I was not as impressed with it as I was hoping to be. I mean, it really had a lot to live up to and be compared to. However, the story was just as ridiculous as the story in Beastly, if not more so. Ridiculous, in a good way…
The story follows Johnny, a boy striving to make ends meet by taking over his family’s shoe repair store, while his mother works a second job. They struggle to pay their electric bill, and really work hard for everything they have. He works in a shop (that belonged to his father before he just left one day when Johnny was a kid) in an upscale hotel in South Beach, Florida. Flinn mixes a lot of fairy tales together with this story. She mostly wrote about “Beauty and the Beast” in Beastly, though my favorite parts involved some chat room time with the little mermaid and others. This book deals with the “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” “The Frog Prince,” “The Six Swans,” “The Golden Bird,” “The Valiant Tailor,” “The Salad,” and “The Fisherman and His Wife.” Flinn cleverly weaves all these tales together with various characters and friends along Johnny’s journey, and with quotes from various tales at the beginning of each chapter. And according to her Author’s Note section in the back, she picked these stories because they tend to not be as well known (she wrote it before Disney’s The Princess and the Frog).
Back to the story, Johnny meets a real, honest to goodness princess (known for partying) at the hotel he works in, and she asks him to do a very important thing for her: help rescue her brother who has been changed into a frog by a very powerful witch. She tells him that the witch is after the frog as well. She gives him a photograph of the frog/prince, headphones that will allow him to talk to any animals that once were human (there’s actually a lot out there), and a cloak that will allow him to travel anywhere he wants simply by wishing it. Does Johnny believe the princess? Not at first. But he soon learns that magic does exist, and besides all the money the princess offers and her hand in marriage is kind of hard to pass up on. (She’s really hot, and Johnny’s family really needs the money). That, and he hopes he can get the princess to wear the shoes he designs, and make them popular.
He takes the quest, meets talking swans, rodents, and foxes, follows the frog around Florida, learns the truth about his father, falls in love (not with the princess), learns about brownies (the creature, not the dessert), gets captured and rescued, escapes big guys with guns, rescues a princess and her brother, and talks a lot about shoes! The story was incredible. It took me a little while to get into, but once I did, it moved incredibly fast. Johnny is constantly being tested and thrown into impossible circumstances.
I loved that it’s about a boy. I think more fairy tales should be about boys. I love all the talking animals (who actually came off as being rather believable). And I love all of the fairy tale quotes and folk tale mashup of themes.
What I didn’t like: Johnny. He just was not that likeable to me. And by the end, I still wasn’t feeling it. Flinn likes to write about guys who are hard to like, I get it. But, Johnny was never as terrible as the main character in Beastly, yet I still never liked him as much. I loved that he loved shoes. And I loved that he cared about his mother so much. But other than that he seemed kind of boring and a little bit dumb. He needed something to be thrown in his face before he could understand it, and I tend to like my YA leads to be a little cleverer.
I still really enjoyed reading this one, and I give it a 8/10. I highly recommend it to modern fairy tale fans.