Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
So me and this book had a few troubles. After being approved on Netgalley (which took so long it was already out by the time I was) I realised from reading other reviews that though it is a companion novel, The Cinderella Moment should be read before The Rapunzel Dilemma. Considering I’d been planning on reading it anyway I thought I would track it down, shouldn’t be too hard, right? Except Dymocks didn’t have it in so I had to wait a week for it to come in. So then I got it, finally, read it in a day. All good. I start The Rapunzel Dilemma that night only to get thirty pages in to my galley and encounter a blank page in the middle of a chapter and the next couple of pages seemingly out of order. Close Adobe Editions, open it again, restart laptop – nothing worked. And I couldn’t re-download it from Netgalley because I’d taken so long to get around to it that it had been archived. Great. However, I refused to be beaten and the next time I was in the city (Thursday) I bought myself a paperback copy (as well as some other goodies, because I can). I finished the book I’d moved on to and FINALLY I was on my way.
The Rapunzel Dilemma picks up a few weeks after the happy ending of The Cinderella Moment. Lily has convinced her father that he should let her attend the London Drama Academy, an idea he was not too keen on to begin with. But he has made her a deal: he will allow her three years at the Academy and then she will have to step into her role in the family business. She begrudgingly agrees, for now, and receives a rare audition for the Academy. Instantly, her new classmates believe that it is Lily’s money and connections that have got her there and as you can imagine they are livid. I would be too and I don’t blame them at all. So for the first time ever life is not easy for Lily de Tourney and she finds that at the Academy her status and privilege mean nothing other than being able to purchase an expensive bedspread to rub her roommates’ noses in (not literally!) which really is not going to make them like you any more than before. The classes are difficult, too, and Lily is also learning that even though she loves acting, she might not actually be as good as she thinks she is.
As well as handling all the drama of being the rich kid nobody likes, someone is also trying to sabotage Lily’s new friendships and things start to go missing, get ruined and trashed and all fingers point to Lily, even though she’s getting menacing letters in her locker. Oh wait, don’t forget the love interest! Cue entry of mysterious, angsty, good looking boy from the other side of the tracks.
The Rapunzel parallels are in Lily’s long blonde locks and the Tower in which she seeks refuge from the students who dislike her, the sabotage and from her teachers’ harsh (but in my opinion deserved) criticism. Basically, there’s a reason no one likes Lily. She is spoiled and privileged and has no idea about the real world and what goes on in it. Even when she recognises this she doesn’t change her attitude so it is hard to like her. She is incredibly naïve and I couldn’t believe that she didn’t realise that obviously she had help getting her audition at the Academy. I could still feel the fairytale element in this story but not quite as well, although overall I enjoyed it more than I did The Cinderella Moment. There were few parallels in the flow of the two stories, particularly in misunderstandings with the respective love interests and another rushed conclusion where everything is tied up with a neat bow in the last thirty pages or so.
So what did I like? Because I did like it, even though I didn’t like Lily, didn’t really like the romance and didn’t like how rushed the conclusion was. Wait….did I like this? Well, I did. I liked the boarding school setting and I liked the friendships, especially Angel and Lily’s friendship and how Lily had to more or less learn how to make friends with people who didn’t like her. I thought the blossoming friendships with her roommates were sweet but I didn’t particularly care for Max much at all, despite the fact that he was the first one to befriend her. Hands down my favourite character is still Grandmama, who has a more subtle role in this story but makes an appearance nonetheless. I completely understand Grandmama even when Lily doesn’t – imagine finding your 16-year-old granddaughter at a hotel in the English countryside and meet her male companion wearing nothing but a towel! Even if he had been the most upperclass young man ever she still would have thrown a fit (you would hope, in the name of good grandparenting) despite it all being a case of misunderstanding. Surely Lily and Ronan would realise that? But it’s a fairytale! There needs to be conflict for a nice resolution.
And look it was a nice, if somewhat unrealistic, resolution. It was a fairly enjoyable read and the ending was nice, but on further thought I have dropped my rating from 4 stars to 3.5. It wasn’t spectacular but it was a nice and light, fluffy read.
Lily’s scored a rare audition to get into the London Drama Academy, the school of her dreams, but there are a few problems: she’s only there on probation for one term, her dad wants her to quit acting to learn ‘the family business’, and everyone thinks she’s there just because she’s a rich bitch, not because she’s talented, and someone in particular doesn’t want her there and is out to sabotage her every move. Oh, and there’s a cute mysterious boy with mysterious secrets who mysteriously is drawn to her and talks about mysterious things all teenagers talk about like the meaning of desire because he’s like so totally deep and mysterious.
I’ve always liked boarding school stories, but The Rapunzel Dilemma made me realise how much I love performing school stories as well. In Adi Rule’s Strange Sweet Song, Rule made up an entire opera for the school to perform. In The Rapunzel Dilemma, Jennifer Kloester falls back on something that requires much less work and picks a play in the public domain: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. I did however love the references to classic school plays like The Crucible. However, I actually did attend a performing arts school, and I actually was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and almost nothing the teachers taught the students resembled anything at all I might recognise from my days learning the craft. The teachers kept banging on about the students having to appear ‘otherworldly’ and ‘wise’ and a whole bunch of concepts that they kept yelling to their students about but not actually teaching them how to represent said concepts (physically, emotionally). At one point Lily is accused of appearing shallow and naïve whilst reciting lines, but there was absolutely no improvements offered.
I sure felt sorry for those kids because they didn’t have much guidance at all, and coupled with this weird need to workshop and rehearse the play as different characters before they are even cast, I didn’t find much in common with the performance aspect. In that respect, Adi’s Strange Sweet Song really outshined The Rapunzel Dilemma because Rule really got into the head of the performing student in a way Kloester didn’t. I will however say that I was glad that the role Lily was eventually offered was not one of the traditional roles, even if it appeared a little Mary-Sue-ish. It would have suited me just fine if she’d been cast in the most difficult part, and I think it would have added extra conflict as well.
I didn’t particularly like Lily as a character, because she was a whiny self-indulgent privileged brat who outright refused to accept that her wealth and privilege had given her a shot at the school that other students didn’t have. I certainly don’t think she deserved the horrible things that happened to her, and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book hoping she’d get out unscathed and figure out who was behind the horrible pranks. But Lily never quite warmed up to me, and neither did the love interest, which was easily spotted from a mile off. They simply had no spark together, no chemistry. It was practically a paint by numbers romance, and I was much more interested in the other aspects of the book.
However Lily’s friendship with Angel was darling to watch, even if they weren’t on page together, and Lily’s tentative friendship with several of the other characters was also nice to watch develop, especially because someone was sabotaging her and making her life hell. I liked watching the dynamics between Lily’s three room mates and every single character in the novel had their own personality and motivation, which was brilliant to see.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that The Rapunzel Dilemma is a modern retelling of Rapunzel, but more takes inspiration from certain aspects. Lily has long hair and she shuts herself in a tower to hide away from the other students. I did like seeing the classic Rapunzel elements brought the life in this way, especially at the climax where I was practically hyperventilating with anxiety only to see the most perfect use of the fairy tale trope found in the original tale.
I also need to add that The Rapunzel Dilemma is being promoted as a ‘companion novel’ to The Cinderella Moment, but I was often lost and confused about all of the events and characters obviously explored in the first novel. I’d recommend reading The Cinderella Moment first, and I think I’ll track it down so I can make more sense of The Rapunzel Dilemma. They should be first and second in a series, not companion novels.
However all of that being said the book was brilliantly written and it certainly didn’t stop me from really enjoying it and every aspect, even if I found the performing stuff weird, Lily unlikeable and the romance lukewarm. If you’re interested in performance school stories or quirky interpretations of fairy tales, then I’d really recommend The Rapunzel Dilemma because I just wanted to keep reading it despite its obvious flaws.
Thanks to Penguin Australia and Netgalley for providing a free review copy for an honest review.
I don't care about this romance, I just want to know who the bad guy is and see them appropriately punished!
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD *hyperventilates* In other news, the bad guy was who I thought it was.
Most excellent. I feel like I've been on this wonderful streak of 5 star books recently.
Review to come.
LILY: Oh, Ronan, I don't know you at all and you're so mysterious and different from anyone I've ever known and I just know I can tell you anything!
RONAN: Oh Lily, I'm a brooding bad boy so I can only drop hints about being attracted to you!
God this romance is BAD.
But the awesome part is the horrific bullying going on. Genuinely stressed out for Lily when she's being wrongfully accused.