My Rating: 3.5 stars
A Long, Long Sleep begins with Rosalinda Fitzroy, or Rose, being woken from stasis by an unknown boy sixty-two years after her mother put her in. She finds that everyone she knew is gone, something called the Dark Times has happened, and no one even knew she existed. This is a loose retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” focused on exploring what happens after the long sleep in a sci-fi setting. There is no equivalent to the evil fairy cursing the princess, but Sheehan does use the thorn hedge as a metaphor. I’d also say that the book spends a great amount of time considering the consequences of a child being “perfect,” which corresponds with all the fairies’ gifts in the original tale.
The first half felt like a very typical YA novel. We have Rose starting at her new school, struggling with friendships, and developing a crush. Eventually a robot assassin starts going after her, but even that felt fairly par for the course in a YA sci-fi story. I actually considered abandoning the book in the first few chapters because I was a bit bored and I’m generally not a big sci-fi fan (even though this is very “lite” sci-fi). And those feelings weren’t helped by how frustrating Rose is as a protagonist. She is incredibly passive. She didn’t tell her foster parents something tried to murder her because she didn’t want to bother them! She’s also rather self-deprecating and quick to take the blame for things; she says multiple times that she can’t do well in school because she’s stupid. It’s hard to read a book with a character like this narrating. It gets grating.
However, I’m so happy I continued on with the book because the second half is excellent. Rose’s full backstory is revealed, and it’s just heartbreaking. I actually cried, and I don’t cry at books too often! Sheehan ends up exploring some tough and thought-provoking subjects, including forms of abuse and neglect and moral issues regarding human life. I wasn’t expecting that from a YA “Sleeping Beauty” retelling at all, and I loved it. I also really enjoyed the friendship between Rose and Otto, which also begins about halfway through.
My biggest issue with the book was that all the world building was done through info dumping. I do understand why it was done this way; Rose has been in stasis and needs several decades of history explained to her. To Sheehan’s credit, most of it is done through dialogue, which is better than just dropping it in the narration. But I wish it had felt more natural and been integrated a little better.
Overall, A Long, Long Sleep is a lovely YA sci-fi reimagining of “Sleeping Beauty.” It got off to a rocky start for me, but ultimately it’s a beautiful story with plenty to make you think.