I love new iterations of stories. Stories aren’t set in stone, but are like a priceless gem: if you cut away a section of it, a new, gleaming facet emerges that helps you study it and appreciate it better.  In a way, you’ve “remade” the gem, but have also kept the core of what it is.

This is what Disney has done – and continues to do – with stories.  By studying these different “facets” of stories, we can better explore problems in our culture, as well as find possible solutions. 

Thus, I was intrigued by Disney’s “A Twisted Tale” series.  Each book is independent and re-tells a Disney story with a twist – usually a tragic one.  They are considered teen/young adult fiction, but as an adult I found them an enjoyable, easy read.

The first book in the series is A Whole New World, which is a retelling of Disney’s animated film Aladdin.  Just to warn you: there are some minor spoilers up ahead regarding this book.  I tried not to give anything crucial away, but it’s hard to talk about a “twisted tale” without talking about some of the twists!

About the Book

This is the “first” in the series, and a good introduction to what the author, Liz Braswell, is trying to do.  After Jafar successfully finds Genie’s lamp and stages his coup, it is up to Jasmine, Aladdin, and a group of renegade rebels to overthrow the new tyrant (and his army of zombies…). 

Favorite aspect: The bond of friendship and love the rebels had for each other, and how they sought justice even though the odds were almost impossible.  It wasn’t just Jasmine and Aladdin up against Jafar, but a group of scrappy, endearing street-rats that you come to love.

Least favorite aspect: The twist of Jafar getting the lamp meant that Aladdin never got to be friends with Genie.  It made me incredibly sad, as Genie was my favorite part of the original Disney movie. This aspect made an otherwise wonderful book a little less wonderful. 

Biggest Surprise: How terrifyingly EVIL Jafar was.  He was an absolute lunatic. You can definitely pick that up in the animated movie, but still…it was quite terrifying how he was always – ALWAYS – one step ahead of the good guys.

The Issue it Tackles

The theme of this story is that we cannot do this thing called life alone.  We need a team.  

As Meg from Disney’s Hercules points out, sometimes it’s easier to be alone; no one can hurt you then. It’s a sentiment our culture is familiar with and is constantly tackling.  This feeling is especially strong among teens and young adults, the book’s intended audience. Thus, it’s an incredibly important issue to talk about.

Just like in the movie, Aladdin starts off as a loner with his only friend Abu.  However, he quickly realizes that the evil he faces is bigger than him – bigger than any one person.  He begrudgingly joins the team…and soon, they became his family (or a “teamily,” if you will). Granted, there is still a good deal of friction between the members of the “teamily;” but they recognize they need each other and can only defeat an evil tyrant like Jafar if they do it together.

Interestingly, they actually don’t defeat Jafar as a team.  One of them decides he can do it better on his own.  However, this actually serves to show the point of the book better.  Although they did defeat Jafar, the decision to go “alone” was not a good one for this character.  His decision had unintended consequences that hurt many (including my beloved Genie!). And in the end, it didn’t help his anger or bitterness.

How this Applies to Us

“But I’m not up against an evil tyrant…so this doesn’t really apply to me!  Right?”

Yes, Jafar is a human tyrant…but there are other, emotional tyrants that we face every day, and that teens and young adults are working through rigorously.  Self doubt, depression, image issues, anger, questions of self-worth and self-esteem…the list of “tyrants” that seek to control our minds goes on and on. When we try to tackle these issues on our own, it leads to unintentional consequences that often hurt others, just like in the book.

Like Aladdin, you need a good, solid “teamily” to help you battle them.  We need each other – with all our faults, quirks, and foibles – to overcome those evil tyrants.  It might take awhile to find a “teamily” that fits you…but it’s worth the struggle to do so. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself how Aladdin does just that in “A Whole New World.”

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