Beauty Sleep manages to retell the story of “Sleeping Beauty” while incorporating a proactive princess and true love despite the curse of a hundred year sleep. This is no mean feat! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which occasionally brought me to happy tears as things fell into place (I’m also sleep deprived, which may factor in, but it’s still some masterful storytelling!).
Told in retrospective, the narrative is in reflective first person from Princess Aurore’s point of view. She occasionally addresses the reader, directly connecting her own thoughts and experiences to anyone reading the book. She also explores why things happen on a level that I think will engage readers from a mature 10 years old on up through adults. It deals philosophically with issues such as self-perception and perception of others in ways that are very appropriate for middle grade readers. This approach leads to a very character driven story, for we get to know Aurore quite well and through her the important people in her life. Note: my daughter had a little trouble getting into the book because of this approach, but she stuck with it and she really enjoyed it.
I have one quibble—the book was not particularly well proofread. I found several errors, which is always distracting to me, and there were times when Aurore’s foreshadowing was misleading in ways that I don’t think were intentional. I’m bothered that the publisher didn’t give this beautifully written book the attention it deserved. The fact that it’s part of a series for young readers is no excuse—in fact, it’s all the more reason to do better. Nevertheless, it’s a book worth reading and I’ve added more books by Cameron Dokey to my to-read list.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
It’s a fairytale kingdom, so of course boys are preferred over girls. This is acknowledged, and then Aurore’s father goes about ignoring it. Once she proves herself worthy, she’s named his heir despite being a girl. Aurore isn’t a traditional princess—she doesn’t have a particular fondness for learning needlepoint and dancing. She learns to throw a knife, thatch a roof, and shoot a bow. She also learns healing.
Aside from her mother and her nurse, Aurore has no female friends. All of the other critical characters in the story are male. This is something I only realized when looking back on the story, however.
Although Aurore does her own thing and learns many valuable lessons, she also realizes that by neglecting traditional pursuits there are a lot of other valuable lessons she isn’t learning. By the end, she appreciates the manners she’s learned and the skill with a needle that’s forced upon her. Her cousin, Oswald, learns all the traditional lessons, which is one of his strengths. But like Aurore, in the end it’s the things he didn’t originally value that end up being important. Neglecting balance is a problem.
Almost none. As in any “Sleeping Beauty” story, the baby Aurore is cursed at her christening, but the curse is modified to sleep instead of death. A series of disturbing plagues affects the kingdom when Aurore turns 16—it rains blood, predators give birth to prey and the offspring devour the parents—but it’s all second hand and not at all graphic.
Aurore has a healthy and loving relationship with her parents. Even though her mother tends to be a bit overprotective of her cursed daughter, she listens to reason and loosens her hold. Aurore’s cousin Oswald seems like a villain at first, but the reader is likely to see through this before Aurore does—she sees what she thinks is there and not who he truly is.
Aurore’s kingdom and the nearby enchanted forest are full of magic. The thing about magic is that it makes things more of whatever they are. It’s an interesting perspective that allows for some reflection on human nature.
Many nobles have no time for “the people.” Oswald aligns himself with the nobles, seeing the political advantage of this. While not cruel, he doesn’t really give the commoners a second thought.
Aurore and her father go out among the people, and eventually that’s where Aurore spends most of her time. Her desire to do this is part of what makes her a natural ruler, although by ignoring the nobles, she shuts some doors that come back to haunt her later.
Follow Your Heart
Although Aurore and several other characters are very reasonable and rational people, there’s a strong focus on doing what feels right, what your heart tells you is the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean you should turn off your brain, but it does mean that you should pay close attention to gut instincts and other internal guidance.
There’s some kissing, but not in detail—enough to wake up princesses and to declare true love. It is at its core a romance, although it’s not a classic love story. It’s more a story of self-discovery also allowing you to truly see others as they are.
Note & Spoiler Alert: I was going to try not to mention this as it gives away the ending, but seeing as it also bothered my daughter I decided I probably should. In the end, Aurore ends up falling in love with and marrying her cousin, her uncle’s son. They grew up together in the same household, so they’re almost like siblings. So on a couple of levels it’s a bit weird and may be unsettling.
I really enjoyed this book. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers in this review because I don’t think any of them are disturbing and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the novel. It’s appropriate for mature 10 year olds and up, mostly because of the reflective nature of the book—it’s good for any reader who can handle a story that’s thought provoking and isn’t relentlessly plot driven.