Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Hush by Donna Jo Napoli

by Donna Jo Napoli
YA, Folklore
308 pages (234 read)
piblished: 2007
For: Once Upon a Time Challenge
1 of 5 stars


Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in medieval Ireland - but all of this is lost the day is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country's lays regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference. - from the front book flap


I did not finish this book.

This does not happen to me often. Not necessaily that I don't like, even occassionally hate, a book, but that I decide not to finish. Perhaps I'm a touch obsessive, or maybe a tad too loyal, but I feel like when I start to read a book I enter into a contract of sorts. The book fulfills its end of the contract by being and I fulfill mine by reading it. All of it. (Perhaps I am too easy on the book?) It is difficult for me to breach my contract, but that is what I have done.

Was it that bad? Not necessarily. Note I've still given it one star, not zero. The setting was fascinating, the characters interesting, some even lovable, and the plot compelling. Or at the least had the beginnings of compelling. And since I knew the kidnapping was coming, sometime, the beginning (which lasted longer than I thought it would) stretched to an almost unbearable tension. When I read about Melkorka's silence and the consequences, I was intrigued. The subtle plays for power and the will for self preservation were well done.

But as the story progressed at a leisurely pace, I just couldn't hack it. Last night, before I put it down for good, I wound up crying in my bed for the horror that is our world for the second time in a month. I am not tough enough. And that was before it all got worse.

*Spoiler Alert*
The horror that is slavery! The violence, the hopelessness, the cruelty, the rapes, the graphic descriptions of everything from hunger to menstrual blood. Then after reading some reviews on Goodreads and discovering that none of the questions would be answered and that the ending was nearly as hopeless as the rest... No. This book is not for me.
*Spoiler Over*

Please don't stop and tell me that not everything has happy endings. I know this. I accept this. And I truly think there is great value in reading about "unhappiness," from education to learning empathy. (And I read many hard books and love them and find great personal value in them.) But for me, whatever value I may have gleaned from this story was outweighed by the price I was paying to my well-being.

Many may appreciate this story. It is based on Icelandic tale. And it feels real. No softening. No apologies. If you like that, and are tougher than me (which most of you surely are), than I would recommend this book. Just keep in mind it is not for younger teens.

Now I am going to find some books about dancing daisies and bunny slippers. I need a break.


  1. After the last couple of books I've read, I decided I needed a break too. That's why I'm totally enjoying A Kiss in Time which complete and total fluff.

  2. Thank you for the honesty. Sounds like I should avoid this one. Not my type of read either.

  3. Yeah, I went all the way through and was just appalled at the ending! It made me frustrated and really angry. I didn't realize it was going to turn out that way or I might have avoided in entirely!

  4. I think a book should make you think or feel -- but not depressed! No way, especially if you are a visual person and it sticks with you for a long time. No one wants to feel like they are scraping dirt off of themselves. I appreciate honest reviews.

  5. I just bought the book for my 13 year old, but read it first. It's so sad. I went to bed with a heavy heart. When I think to the brother losing his hand, the kidnapping, the rape, the separation from her sister (never resolved), the slave sale, the loss of virginity against her will, the foiled attempt at escape ... perhaps the hardest aspect of this book was that hardly any of the loss experienced gets resolved. The only thing it does provide is a good style, and an eye-opening experience of how unfair and exploitative life is for millions of people. But probably not a read for my 13 year old. Not yet.