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Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
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Zel (original 1996; edition 1996)

by Donna Jo Napoli

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5931916,560 (3.69)33
Member:wisewoman
Title:Zel
Authors:Donna Jo Napoli
Info:Dutton Juvenile (1996), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:My Library, Read in 2008
Rating:****
Tags:Children's/YA Fiction, Fantasy

Work details

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli (1996)

  1. 00
    Golden: A Retelling of "Rapunzel" by Cameron Dokey (Hollerama)
    Hollerama: Both works are adaptations of Rapunzel.
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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This started out badly, and I only stuck with it past the first few pages because it is so short. I know that it is YA, or supposed to be, but this book has an identity crisis.

The writing feels incredibly juvenile, simplistic to the point of feeling like it was written by a teen rather than just for teens. (This is my first Napoli book, but I almost choked on my drink when I saw that Napoli "teaches linguistics" according to the blurb at the back of the book.) The sentences are like something I'd expect to see in a chapter-book for advanced 3rd graders.

Meanwhile, the story is dark and depressing, with mature themes that are shown but not really shown, only hinted at except when they're blatant, but are never really resolved. And then there's a happy ending. It's like Napoli thought that she'd write something dark and gritty and sinister and cruel... and then Disneyfied it.

The characters were pretty two dimensional, I must say. I could understand Mother's desire to have children when she could not. But honestly, I don't really get anything else after that when it comes to her. She entered into an arrangement out of pure selfishness, and in the bargain she would try to get Zel to do the same. Toward that goal she secluded her child from the world, and then imprisoned her. Because that will NEVER cause resentment and hatred. I know that this is a retelling of a fairy-tale, so it's not like the ending can be changed, but in an effort to humanize the "evil witch" that locked Rapunzel in the tower, Napoli only succeeded in making her unbelieveable and confusing. If she'd wanted Zel to stay with her out of love and fear, even selfishness, I could understand that. But the reason that Napoli laid out made no sense to me.

Konrad could have been interesting, but I don't really get his love for Zel. They met one time, he acted like a pompous rich kid, and because she asked him for a goose egg rather than something practical, he fell for her and committed to two years of fruitless searching for her for nothing more than that, foregoing marriage arrangements that would garner power and wealth and status. All the while ordering people around and demanding they cater to his crazy whims. And his love is so strong that he'd go to the ends of the earth for her. After one meeting. At 15. Right.

Zel herself was both the most interesting at times and the most two dimensional at times. She starts the story as a wide-eyed innocent girl, who just exists in this little bubble with her mother. She doesn't question why she's not allowed to socialize with other kids, she doesn't argue at the unreasonable behavior of her mother who gets all shifty eyed whenever anyone at all talks to Zel on anything deeper than a "Would you like to try this peach?" level, she doesn't act like she's 13 at all, except in her desire for a husband and family, which probably all 13 year olds fantasize about. But then fast forward to Two-Year-Tower Zel, and she's spiralling into depression, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and madness. This was the best part of the book to me, and the reason why it got 2 stars instead of 1. Zel still wanted to love her mother and trust in her the way that she'd trusted her all her life, but she couldn't really do it, and the conflict in herself was making her crazy.

Anyway... I can't really recommend this one. I'd expected better from it. Rats. =",,,,,,0,,,,,
954674,Little Brother,Cory Doctorow,Doctorow ( )
  TheBecks | Apr 1, 2013 |
Debora Brown
EDE 3343 Adolescent Lit.
Book Recommendation
Speculative Fiction 2: Zel
March 5, 2012
Title: Zel
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
This was the sixteenth century, and Zel and her mother lives in Switzerland. Parents should always be protective of their children, but unlike Zel’s mother, she was over protective of Zel. What was she hiding by being so protective of Zel? Everything was going well with Zel and her mother’s life until the day they needed to go into town. Zel’s mother has managed to have her isolated from the world, but Konrad was attracted to Zel. The family had a goose and Zel loved it so much. The funny thing was that the goose set on stones instead of eggs. The Mother was a witch and she kept it a secret. When Zel was in the tower, Mother loved to braid her hair. Mother brought Zel a dress, but she only wore the dress when she showed up. She hated the dress because it rubs against her skin, so she walked around naked in the tower. Mother had Zel trapped in the prison because she does not want her to leave her. Zel true love finds her in the tower, and he spends the night with her. Zel confronts her mother, and she let go of all the pain from the past two years. The pain had grown into a tremendous size inside of Zel. This book is not for children or teens, but it is more appropriate for a young adult audience. Yet, Mother did love Zel, but Konrad loved her more because he searched for her for two years. His love grew deeper and deeper for Zel. He finally gets his wish.
  dkb95 | Mar 6, 2012 |
I really loved how personal this story is. It basically just deals with the three characters, Rapunzel, Mother, and Konrad. The changes in perspective throughout the story were nice. And the evolution of the relationship between Zel and her mother was very interesting to read. I also enjoyed the depiction of Zel's feelings while she was in the tower, it was very realistic. ( )
  MillieHennessy | Sep 14, 2011 |
This is the first time, in a long, long time that I have read the tale of Rapunzel and I have to say that I was definitely surprised by how much I really enjoyed it. I loved how all of the things that happened in the original story, happened in this one as well but it was still a little different. I feel like the witch's part made the book, even though Zel has some crazy moments toward the end. This is truly a romantic story about love at first sight. Honestly, I thought that I was going to be bored with this fairytale since I hadn't read one in ages

Read the full review here http://bookloversunshine.blogspot.com/2011/03/zel-donna-jo-napoli.html ( )
  CrystalJoy04 | Mar 31, 2011 |
Zel is the retelling of the class fairy tale Rapunzel but this book isn't for kids. It's a deep look at what can happen when natural human longings become evil. Set in 16th-century Switzerland, the book alternates between prince Konrad, Zel, and Zel's mother's point of view. The book answers all the questions that the original Grimm's story never answered for us. Why did that witch want Rapunzel in the first place? How did she get her up in the tower if there was no door? Why didn't Rapunzel hate her mother for causing her to become a lonely prisoner? The book expounds upon the utter isolation and realistically portrays the dismal effects on Zel's spirit from being locked away in a tower. This book will cause you to think on a deeper level than you ever have before about an old, familiar tale. It's truly romantic but at times dark. ( )
  sundancer | Jan 8, 2011 |
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For Mamma and Marie and Elena and Eva
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"Oh, mother, the goose is on her nest again."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141301163, Paperback)

High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need -- for they have each other. Zel's life is peaceful and protected -- until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel's mother sees the future unfolding -- and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her... "Will leave readers spellbound."-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:16 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Based on the fairy tale Rapunzel, the story is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Zel, her mother, and the nobleman who pursues her, and delves into the psychological motivations of each of the characters. High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need because they have each other. Zel's life is peaceful and protected--until she encounters a beautiful young prince at the market. But her mother sees the future unfolding and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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