Wow, I’ve reviewed some pretty heavy novels lately. I think it’s about time that I took a look at something a little lighter.
Snowball: Chronicles of a Wererabbit was written by M.Y. Zeman and first published in 2015. It’s a middle-grade fantasy story about the life of a young girl who can turn into a bunny at will. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been released.
Snowball’s life has always been far from ordinary. After she was rescued from a burning laboratory, she found herself taken into the home of John – a vampire scientist. When he studies her DNA, John soon realises that Snow has a lot of similarities to a werewolf and is curious to see if she will ever gain the power to shift into a human.
When Snow first manages to become a human, she is only three years old. All of a sudden, John is forced to learn how to take care of a little girl instead of a rabbit. Although he finds it difficult to adapt at first, he quickly settles into life as a father (with a lot of support from his friend and former partner Edgar).
But Snow struggles to fit in. Although she’s comfortable in her rabbit persona, she finds it harder to associate with humans. She’s seen how dangerous they can be first hand and the girls at school are always quick to bully her about her appearance and strange habits. All Snow wants to be strong and able to protect others but she feels restricted by her small frame and gender. Little does she know that the time to prove herself is close at hand…
Snowball: Chronicles of a Wererabbit is a wonderfully light-hearted read. The story follows Snow’s life from the moment that John rescues to her to when she’s fourteen years old. I really do admire Zeman’s creativity. Although most of the elements that she uses are not original, she very skilfully makes them her own. Her vampires and werewolves are both refreshingly different, taking elements from popular myths and making them unique and interesting.
For a middle grade novel, the scope of this story is vast and it only really felt as though Zeman had scratched the surface. We only really see glimpses of vampire culture through the flashbacks which show how John and Edgar met but this more than adequately sets the stage without resorting to heavy exposition. The tiny flashes of the larger picture really wet my appetite and made me eager to see more of Snow’s world.
I also loved the science behind the were-creatures. While I can’t speak for its grounding in reality (you’ve probably noticed by now that I’m not science-minded), it was nice to see a novel for middle graders go to such lengths to explain its concepts. Authors often have a tendency to talk down to younger readers, explaining things away as being magic or giving no explanation at all. I really loved the length that Zeman went to to make her world solid and believable. I also really liked the way that Snow’s transformation was described in Star Trek teleporter terms – it was a really unique idea and formed a very clear picture in my mind.
However, I do think that this is a story that parents should have a read of before giving to their children. Although it’s largely harmless, there are a couple of scenes that might be a little too violent and scary for very young readers. In one particularly memorable scene, Snow is kidnapped by some men in a white van who want to make movies of her. While she is quickly rescued by John and Edgar, the scene certainly frightened me for a moment. Maybe it’s one of those things that scare adults but fly over the heads of young readers, but I certainly would advise caution if you’re planning on giving this to anyone under the age of ten.
I also think that some people may find the novel’s structure to be a bit daunting as it did jump around quite a lot. Although the entire book is told from Snow’s perspective, it felt more like a scrapbook than a fixed first-person narrative. The first section really focuses on John more than Snow as she’s relating it based on things that he told her (as she was too young to remember). The story eventually switches to being told from her perspective but is still broken by the occasional chapter that either shows events that happened before Snow was born or things that she wasn’t present for.
The prose itself also occasionally felt a little clunky. The while there were occasionally hints at a larger story, these didn’t really start to come together until the last couple of chapters and the novel ended on a cliffhanger without resolving them. Most of the book is taken up by simple episodes from Snow’s life – coping with school, bonding with her dad, befriending a mouse – rather than advancing the story. While it did take me a few chapters to get into the novel, I did still really enjoy despite the lack of a driving plot as it was just a fun read. However, I still feel that this might put off some readers.
Yet it was in terms of character that this book really shone. All of the primary characters were wonderfully developed and incredibly memorable. Snow was particularly endearing. As a rabbit she was completely adorable yet I could relate to her desire to be tough. She admired movie heroes like Rocky, yet when she tried to defend herself she was punished by her teacher because girls were expected not to punch other girls. This really showed the difference in expectations that people have between girls and boys and so made it all the more satisfying when Snow does get the chance to save the day.
I also adored John. He got a lot of development over the early chapters, slowly learning that his research wasn’t the most important thing in the world as he became a better father. The idea of a deaf vampire was also pretty neat as it made a change from the way that they’re usually portrayed as being perfect beings. I really wanted to learn more about his past – particularly his relationship with his sister, Victoria, though it does seem that this is going to be the focus of later novels.
The relationship between John and Edgar was also very sweet and subtle. I loved the scene in which Snow got confused when the girls at school insulted her dad’s sexuality because, to her, this was the norm. This is exactly how I like to see homosexuality portrayed in children’s books. It doesn’t need to be the focus of the story, it just needs to be present and treated as something completely normal (because it is). I wish more middle grade books had wonderful characters like John and Edgar.
So, all in all I would really recommend this story. Although I would advise that parents check it out before giving it to very young kids, it was a really fun story, brimming with originality and memorable characters. I really loved Snow and can’t wait to read about more of her adventures.
Snowball: Chronicles of a Wererabbit can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk