A fictional character in the real world hasn’t escaped her origins.
Rewriting the end of her own story in Unwritten (2018) was supposed to make everything better for 12-year-old Gracie. But the real world is no picnic: The former residents of fictional Bondoff are hungry and cranky, living in cramped quarters with their author, Gertrude. Gracie’s friend Walter’s parents hold Gracie’s past as an author-controlled villain against her. Walter’s folks aren’t alone in thinking Gracie might be wicked, as Cassandra, the evil stepmother from Bondoff, thinks she can reclaim Gracie’s love. In Cassandra’s clutches, without even the privacy of her thoughts to call her own, all Gracie can do is escape into a different story, one of Gertrude’s half-finished, abandoned manuscripts. Gracie and Walter are trapped in a feminist gothic horror—“It was supposed to be a metaphor,” Gertrude had explained—but not much emerges from this clash of tropes. Gracie and Walter, like all of Gertrude’s other (apparently all white) characters, were written as Gertrude worked out her personal psychodramas, and all of them are based on aspects of the writer and her family. Though that framing should allow for compelling character building, the result is disappointingly simplistic and flat.
Magical metafiction doesn’t live up to its premise. (Fantasy. 9-11)