Donna Jo Napoli

Melissa Reynolds Book GPR


A young girl by the name of Zel lives in a small cottage in the mountains along with her Mother. The two seem to be very content, and are able to grow most of what they need around their cottage. They go into town on rare occasion, and while in town just before Zel's thirteenth birthday, Zel happens to meet a youth. The youth happens to be a Count, who becomes obsessed with the idea of finding Zel. Meanwhile, mother has convinced Zel that she is in terrible danger, and locking her in a tower is the only way to keep her safe. Mother visits her regularly, but Zel is suffering of loneliness. This goes on for two years, and therefore causes Zel to go completely crazy, and although she tries to hide it from Mother, it comes out one day, and Mother is terrified. Konrad finally finds the tower, and although she does not at first realize that he is real, they wind up making love. Mother tells Zel the truth about the enemy being imaginary, and Zel tells Mother about Konrad. Mother sends Zel away, losing her forever, but does not have the strength to bring her back. Konrad tries to attack her, she defends herself, but saves him from death upon realizing that he loves Zel just as she does. He becomes blind, and Mother dies now that all her strength is gone. Konrad finally finds her along the coast with her daughters and her tears cure his blindness.


Betrothed: the person that someone has promised to marry.

Edelweiss: a small alpine perennial composite herb of central and southeast Europe that has a dense woolly white pubescence.

Bougainvillea: A tropical plant that usually has red or purple flowers.

Main Characters

Critical Thinking

Discussion Questions

1. Did you enjoy the switching of perspective that came with each new chapter? Do you believe these narrative shifts enhanced the readers experience, or just became a distraction?

2. What is your opinion of the extent to which Mother goes to in order to keep Zel with her?

3. How do you feel about the idea of Count Konrad, or anyone for that matter, being betrothed, and therefore having an arranged marriage. Would anything like this be able to work today in our society or others?

4. What do you think of Konrad's actions and beliefs that outwardly disobey his parents?

5. Why do you think that Zel is unable to stop asking Mother questions during her hour-long visits to the tower, despite knowing that the questions and comments anger and hurt Mother?

6. Do you think that Zel is so infatuated with the goose because it represents exactly what she aspires to have, but also her biggest fear? Meaning, do you think that Zel is envious of the goose's freedom, yet is fearful that with the freedom might come loneliness?

7. How do you feel about the ending of the book? Do you believe that Mother had to die in order for Zel and Konrad to end up together?

My opinion you may ask..?

I really liked this book. I felt that the beginning was pretty similar to what I had remembered the story of Rapunzel being like from my childhood on a basic plot level, yet still managed to have me flipping the page wondering what would happen next. I felt that the changes in perspective were a really interesting way of viewing the story from all sides. A lot of time, Napoli retold different events from the perspective of each character that was present, which managed to give me as the reader, a more concrete idea of what happened at that part. I felt that it was especially important when the encounters were between Mother and Konrad, because Mother was purposely trying to deceive him, and it was interesting to see how he interpreted her lies. Another aspect of the story that made it an interesting read in my opinion, was the descriptiveness of Zel's madness. Mother does not realize how much she truly is hurting Zel mentally while keeping her up in that tower. I also found it incredible how Napoli managed to make the mother's death more of a freeing moment than a sad one. She truly did fight for her Zel until the very end, once she realized that she was the one hurting Zel all along. I also enjoyed the ending of the book, because I am a real sucker for happily ever afters.

Works Cited

Betrothed. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/betrothed

Bougainvillea. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bougainvillea

Edelweiss. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/edelweiss

Napoli, D. (1996). Zel. New York: Dutton Children's Books.