When I was younger, I stayed up past my bedtime to finish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Despite being too old to still read with my parents, my father read it out loud to me (he was as curious about the then-new series as I was). After we turned the last page, I couldn’t sleep. I paced the house relentlessly. I woke up my sister to try to talk to her about it (she didn’t care) and my parents, probably regretting letting me stay up at this point, insisted I go to bed. So I tried. But instead, hidden under the covers with a flashlight, I wrote a diary entry about The Boy Who Lived and The Man With Two Faces. I can probably count the number of diary entries I wrote as a child- this was one of few.
No book has shook me quite like the first Harry Potter installment did… until now, 16 years later. Funny enough, I was staying at my father’s house-a new house-the weekend I read The Enchanted and, after finishing it I paced the main floor for a few minutes, looking for someone to talk to. But again, I had stayed up past my bedtime (this time much later than before) and was entirely alone to process how this book made me feel. It was a terrifying experience. Why? Because both books, though completely different, are extremely powerful. J.K. Rowling introduced an entire generation of children to the wonder of fiction. Rene Denfeld introduces readers to the challenge of it. How do you interpret an extremely dark and difficult story when it is told with unmistakable talent and beautiful writing?
The answer I came up with? Look for the hope. Because it’s there, in The Enchanted, hidden in dark corners and behind grey clouds. And when you find it, you’ll agree that this is one of the best reading experiences this year (or, for me, since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone).
I’ll be honest here: a lot of books make me cry. Books have the power to really reach into my soul and tangle up my heartstrings and leave me dazed, confused, and a bit dehydrated. The Enchanted didn’t just make me cry, it got so far inside my heart that I don’t think it will ever leave. I’ve never read a book that shook me to the core as deeply as this one did. The characters, the darkness, the ways it reflects on how society fails us and contributes to the cycle of abuse, and how it deals with redemption and the justice system. Rene Denfeld just has this amazing ability to tell a deeply personal story while also reflecting on society as a whole.
You can feel the power of this story from the very first page. I think that’s the best word to describe this book – powerful. It is dark and, at times, hard to read and emotional and shocking and brave, and exposes all the parts of humanity that sometimes you wish you couldn’t see. But it also has this incredible, powerful ray of hope that shines through. It’s a book that you will need to talk about, but it’s also a book that you will hold inside you, like a secret, because it’s one that you’ll need to reflect on. This is a book that will challenge you, and change you. It’s that powerful. (And if you’re like me and cry while reading, well, get those tissues ready.)
– Shannon (@shanparsons)
There are no words to describe how I felt after reading this book. The Enchanted is the type of novel you slowly close, slowly put down and then find yourself paralyzed in thought. My immediate impression was that this is one of the finest novels I have read in a long, long time. The story is so intense, so powerful, so horrifying and yet so redeeming all at once. I’m not quite sure that I’ve ever experience anything quite like it.
This is a masterpiece of a first novel from an author who will surely be at the forefront of literary conversations for some time. The quality is undeniable and I could not recommend this book enough.
– Jason (@J_Pratt15)