A Whole New World by Liz Braswell
Series: A Twisted Tale #1 (1/?)
Published by Disney-Hyperion on September 1, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Fantasy, Retelling
1.5 Stars, Completed August 30, 2015
– SPOILERS ahead –
A Whole New World is an Aladdin retelling where the events are slightly distorted from the original Disney film. Instead of Aladdin meeting the genie first and having to struggle with facing the truth and his identity, before Aladdin even catches on that the tales of djinns and genies are real, the grand vizier, Jafar, possesses the lamp and transforms Agrabah into an apocalyptic setting by using dark magic.
After reading, it got me thinking that beloved Disney films though they have their own merits (good morals, beautiful illustrations, funny moments, and encouragement of imaginations to name a few) still are full of instalove romances, love triangles, development of somewhat bland characters, and other unwanted characteristics most readers probably don’t enjoy reading usually. However, for a movie, that’s okay. I can completely sympathize that there’s so much you can squish into a 2 hour movie; these inadequacies can easily be brushed off. On the other hand for a book, so much more of the story can be elaborated on and there’s plenty of room for the author to unleash creativity. So for this Aladdin retelling I was anticipating many things that weren’t addressed in the film. I was hoping this book would bridge the gaps and clarify the grey areas in the movie, and still make references from the original film all the while being unique as a novel on its own.
Unfortunately, I was vastly disappointed.
Very little of the book was original. In fact, the first 25% of the book was exactly like the film, from the description of the clothes and setting to the dialogue. I’m not sure how the copyrights work since this was published by Disney Press, but the first quarter seemed like straight plagiarism. And it goes without saying, being a huge Disney fan (who isn’t though?) and someone that has seen the movie too many times to count, this entire quarter of the book was incredibly boring and predictable.
Since the book followed so closely to the film, the character development I was hoping to see never appeared. The characters were often going through the motions and the actions weren’t anything new if you’ve seen the movie. Instead of feeling immersed in the story it felt like reading a script with stage directions and dialogue. Because of this, there wasn’t a chance to connect with Aladdin, Jasmine, or the other characters.
Actually I even felt frustrated with some of the characters, especially with Jasmine. I noticed that there were some inconsistencies in her character and thought her newfound discovery of the outside world unrealistic. At times she was in wonder by the poverty, gender inequality, and women oppression in Agrabah and profoundly surprised by the death and illness that plagued the others around her, which kind of reminded me of Siddhartha Guatama and his first time in the world (but let’s not veer off topic on that). Other times, she was viewed as a revolutionary and symbol for The Mark of Rajah movement against Jafar. In theory, the revolutionary Jasmine would have had more depth than the movie Jasmine, but the switching between the naive and rebel Jasmine made it difficult for the reader to grasp which type of heroine to focus on. Also, the Mark of Rajah and the Street Rats didn’t leave an impact as District 12 or the Mockingjay did if compared to The Hunger Games-sorry, it also makes me cringe to make that comparison. Overall, I found the extremely naive but “rebellious” Jasmine to be pretty unrealistic and not work in favor for this story.
As for the romance it’s probably best to just watch and sing along to “A Whole New World” on youtube-because I don’t even recall getting an Aladdin/Jasmine fluff scene and if we did, it wasn’t as fulfilling as the movie’s. Throughout the entire book, Aladdin and Jasmine remained an instalove couple with no relationship growth.
Along with the lack of romance development and romance scenes, the narrative wasn’t as mature as I was expecting for a young adult audience. The writing, as I mentioned earlier, wasn’t really special as well. In the beginning, the story was told in a very descriptive, vivid manner (however that was only for the first 25% where there was no variance from the movie) but as the story continued and took it’s own creative spin the descriptive writing soon dwindled into streams of purple prose. By the 70% mark for A Whole New World I was doing some major skimming.
And lastly, what probably bothered me the most was how ridiculous some moments were. To elaborate on that, there would be some serious spoilers so I think I’ll leave it with this gif.
So the twist with Jafar and the smaller events that follow in consequence to Jafar’s reign were literally the only differences between the book and movie. This story probably would have been a good one if the Disney movie wasn’t so popular. Sadly, I wasn’t very fond of A Whole New World, but I’m still giving it 0.5 star more than I originally planned for the attempt and good intentions of bringing one of my favorite Disney movies to the pages-even though the execution wasn’t great.
Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this! In no way did this affect my reading experience and honest review.