Review of TRIS & IZZIE by METTE IVIE HARRISON
(Review based on an advance reading copy)
TRIS & IZZIE transfers the story of Tristan and Isolde to a high school setting. Izzie, our protagonist, has the perfect life until she makes the mistake of fiddling around with magic. Though Izzie has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend Mark, she senses that her best friend Branna might be a little lonely for a romance of her own. Since Izzie’s mother is a witch, her mind jumps to the easy solution and she tries to use a love philtre on Branna and the odd-but-handsome new guy Tristan. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan, and Izzie accidentally drinks the philtre herself.
It took me three to five pages to go along with the tone of the book. The description of Tristan and Isolde transferred to a high school setting might have set me up with the wrong expectations at first. The book, while still a delightful read, is more whimsical than realistic, more humorous than tragic. A lot of the dialogue felt slightly more plot-serving than something I can imagine teenagers actually saying and the characters seem more like people from a fairy tale than a real high school campus. While it took me a few pages to accept the atmosphere, it all works well for the story.
The book doesn’t waste any time. We meet Izzie and Mark and see a brief glimpse of their relationship in line one and we have conflict between Izzie and her best friend Branna on page two. The story line isn’t an exact parallel to the Tristan and Isolde tale, so readers can expect some surprises.
A woman torn between two wonderful men, trying to have them both. That sets the writer a challenge to make her likable, and Harrison jumps over this hurdle: Izzie is very likable. She walked into this situation by messing with magic, but it’s debatable whether her feelings for Tristan are her own or entirely forced from the love philtre. Her eagerness to help her friend early on won me over. In fact, most of the characters demonstrate remarkable maturity throughout in their desire for others’ happiness. Definitely a book that inspires faith in humanity.
The role of will in love is perhaps the most prominent theme. Izzie is perfectly happy with Mark until a love philtre makes her fall for Tristan instead. Does that mean her feelings for Tristan aren’t real? Or is the philtre merely an excuse? I saw parallels to alcohol with this, especially in the sense that the substance can be used as a social crutch. “It wasn’t me; it was the alcohol.”
TRIS & IZZIE is a fun read, especially since Harrison makes the story her own. Its greatest strength, in my opinion, is the characters. For all their complications and flaws, all the main characters are good people and their self-sacrifices and loyalty make this book a refreshing alternative to the abundance of dark, dreary stories out there.