*I received this book as an eARC from Patchwork Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Author: Pauline C. Harris
Publication: October 2014
Cover Design: Erica Crouch
Synopsis: Penelope lives in a world of advanced technology but many claim society has yet to catch up. Marionettes have advanced in the form of robots; lifelike creations remote controlled to perform super human tasks.
When Penelope makes a deal with Jed, a marionette-obsessed scientist, she doesn’t fully realize what she’s getting herself into. In order for Jed to take her away from the orphanage she lives in, she must first agree to undergo his experiments and tests, ultimately creating something no one ever dreamed possible; the first living marionette.
As Jed shows off his scientific creation to the world, concerns arise surrounding Penelope’s abilities and what she’s capable of doing. Ordered to somehow lessen her abilities, Jed makes a desperate attempt to change Penelope to make her more human, more vulnerable. After Penelope lies to the officials about her past, Jed makes sure it’s the last one she’ll ever utter. The truth is now the only thing she is capable of telling.
As Penelope struggles with her past, her disturbingly new present, and her uncertain future, she is thrust into a magically twisted world of mayhem in search of the one thing she wants, but knows she can never have. The chance to be just a girl again. To be normal. To be real.
Review: It's no secret that I love a good retelling. Especially when the bones of the original story are there, but they've been manipulated into something new and exciting. That's what I was really looking forward to most about this book - a new take on Pinocchio, with all sorts of twists to make it futuristic and something entirely its own.
For the most part, this story really delivers. I loved the way that puppets are incorporated into the story, and how Penelope is like the story of Pinocchio in reverse in that she starts out human, ends up something not quite human, and then wants to be a real girl again. So maybe a back-and-forth Pinnochio? Regardless, I really enjoyed the way Pauline twisted the story and the idea of a "puppet," especially in this futuristic sense. I also enjoyed how Penelope's ability to lie is taken away in a completely different way than Pinocchio's. I mean, it would be pretty ridiculous for a (mostly) human girl's nose to just start growing every time she tells a lie.
Things move fairly quickly, although there were a few times when I felt like the story dragged a little bit and the pacing was off. I definitely spent most of the book feeling like I should read just one more page, or just one more chapter, since I was anxious to know what was going to happen next. Even though some parts were slow, that underlying nervousness about what was going to happen next kept me turning pages well past my bed time! I think that everything flows nicely, but maybe some of the more exposition-y world-building sections could have been incorporated somewhere else to let the plot move along more quickly.
I was unsure about the romance at first, since Penelope's love interest is kind of her adopted brother. It was a little weird, but then it definitely grew on me, especially as I saw more of their friendship turning into something more. I think this story could have still done without the relationship, but it isn't too overwhelming and is just another facet of Penelope, so it ended up being alright. Maybe that's what made this book feel like it was dragging in some places? I don't know.
Overall, this was a really interesting and unique take on the classic Pinocchio story. Pauline totally recreates marionettes and makes them more sci-fi than anything, and I really enjoyed reading about them and learning more about how people could be turned into a marionette. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a sci-fi retelling of Pinocchio, and am looking forward to reading more from Pauline! 3/5.