Reviewed October 15, 2009.
Winner of the Ursula Nordstrom First Fiction Contest HarperCollins, 2007. 184 pages.
Cadence Brogan feels like Rapunzel. Only her tower is Homework Club, and she doesn't have hair long enough to rescue her.
Cadence is a newly-identified genius who harnesses her creativity working hard to not give her teachers what they want. When she is required to do homework during after-school Homework Club, she keeps busy writing, but she's writing letters to a mysterious "friend" of her father's, using the pen name Rapunzel.
Cadence became Rapunzel when her father went away, a victim of the Evil Spell. Her mother calls it C. D., clinical depression, but Rapunzel is poetical, like her father, and thinks of it as the Evil Spell. She found a torn up letter her father was going to write to this mysterious friend. She doesn't have even a name, but she does have the post office box number. The fragment says,
. . . You are the secret to my success as a poet and a human being. Writing these letters every day has helped me keep my heart open, to be willing to live, to keep the darkness . . .
Maybe if Cadence, as Rapunzel, can write letters to this mysterious benefactor herself, maybe she can draw back the darkness and get her father back from the hospital.
Letters from Rapunzel tells the story of her quest, in the form of the letters she sends to the box, along with copies of her creative alternatives to her teacher's assignmments. There is plenty of humor in the situations Cadence gets herself into, but plenty of poignancy as well, as she deals with her father's absence and Evil Spell on top of pressures from school and her Mom. She uncovers things no one wanted to tell her along with some profound truths about herself.
This is definitely a promising first novel. It covers some profound issues with a light touch. Quick reading that will make you smile, but will also make you think.