High in my tower I sit. I watch the birds fly below, the clouds float above, and the tall, green forest stretch to places I might never see.
Mama, who isn’t my mother, has kept me hidden away for eight long years. My only companions, besides Mama, are my books – great adventures, mysteries, and romances, that I long to make my reality. But I know that no one will come to save me—my life is not a fairy tale after all.
Well, at least no one has come so far. Recently, my hair has started to grow rapidly and it is now long enough to reach the bottom of the tower from my window. I’ve also had the strangest dreams of a beautiful green-eyed boy.
When Mama isn’t around, I plan my escape, even if it’s just for a little while. There’s something— maybe someone—waiting for me out there and it won’t find me if I’m trapped here TOWERING above it all.
Trailer for Towering
“an empowering retelling of the story of Rapuzel” —Booklist
“Flinn cleverly weaves fantasy and realism together into what seems to be almost a new genre.” —School Library Journal
“it’s rewarding to follow Rachel’s growth into a courageous protagonist in charge of her own fate.” —Horn Book
“one of the most suspenseful young adult novels that has come along in a long time” —Children’s Literature
“Flinn’s ‘towering’ achievement is Rachel.” —Kirkus
Excerpt from Towering
I had not been outside in years. I wasn’t sure how many, exactly because I didn’t keep track from the beginning. I didn’t realize I’d need to. But my dresses had been replaced many times, at least six or seven, and I could tell I’d become taller. The top of my head didn’t reach the bottom of my window when I came here. I could see the sky, the sky and nothing else, blue sky some days, grey most. Then, I could see out, but out only if I stood on my toes. But finally, at seventeen, I could see out easily. The birds, which were often below me, the clouds above, and the tall, green forest with miles and miles of trees.
But no one could see me. My window was high, high above the ground, and no one ever came this far, no one but Mama.
Mama wasn’t my real mother. I knew that, but it felt better to call her Mama. My real mother was killed when I was a baby, murdered like the Woman in White or Rebecca, people in books I’d read, and the person who killed her might come back for me. That was why Mama spirited me away in the night and brought me here. To protect me. Mama promised that when my real mother’s killer is found, she would let me go out into the world, but only when I might go without fear.
That was also why she cut my hair.
When I was little, before I came here, I had beautiful, wavy, spun-gold princess hair. Mama would sit up every night, brushing it a hundred strokes, then braid it into two long, shiny braids that ran down my back like a train going nowhere. This was our nightly ritual, and I loved it. I knew that my hair was special, and that I was special because of it.
Sometimes, I’d wake in the early morning and find Mama there, pressing my braids against her wrinkled lips by moonlight, whispering, “Sleep, my lovely, my only lovely,” And later, when I woke for good, she’d brush and braid it again. My hair grew fast, and once a week, Mama cut it, so that it would stay exactly to my waist.
Mama kept me out of sight even then. I didn’t go to school but read at Mama’s knee. But sometimes, I was allowed to go outside and play, on days that weren’t too sunny, days when people weren’t out. Mama watched me carefully, as if one of the hawks in the sky might take me in its talons and carry me off.
But, one day, I was playing and Mama was tending her garden, not paying much attention to me. I was digging my own hole. It was May, and I was planting carrots. We’d gotten this wonderful thing, a tape with carrot seeds on it, they could be planted exactly the right distance apart. I dug a little trench like Mama had showed me, and I was about to show it to her, so she would give me the tiny, golden carrot seeds when, all of a sudden, I saw a face at our gate.
A little girl! She was about my age, I thought, with curly, brown hair and spots on her face that people on television called freckles. I should have said something to Mama, but I didn’t. I knew, with a child’s instinct, that if I said something, she would pull me inside, and I didn’t want to go inside. I went to the gate.
“Hello,” I said. “Who are you?”
“Are you Rachel?” Though her hair was drab brown, her eyes were a beautiful shade of blue, almost purple like the irises Mama grew.
“Yes,” I said. “How did you know?”
“I knew by your hair. They said it would be yellow. It’s so pretty. Can I touch it?”
I hesitated. I did not want this strange girl to touch my hair. It was mine. And yet, I wanted her to stay, to talk to me. I’d never met any other girls before.
“Please,” she said. “You’re just like a princess. I’d love to be friends with a princess like you.”
I made my decision. I nodded, okay, and leaned forward so she could reach her hand out to touch my hair. I thought it would hurt. Only Mama touched my hair. But she was gentle, twirling the ends between her fingertips.
At least, at first. Then, she touched it higher up, nearer the root, and held it tight.
“Stop that,” I said, whispering at first so Mama wouldn’t hear. “It hurts.”
But she stroked harder, and finally, she gave a big yank, as if she was trying to separate my hair from my head.
I screamed. Oh, how I screamed, and Mama was there in an instant, shouting at the little girl to get away from me, and the little girl ran, shrieking, down the street, I knew not where.
“Come, Rachel.” Mama motioned me toward the house.
“I’m sorry, Mama.” I was crying, scared of the little girl who had pulled my hair but also, scared of Mama’s sudden anger. “It was just a little girl.”
Mama didn’t say anything, so I thought it was okay. But that night, she didn’t brush my hair or and braid it. She left it down, and I could barely go to sleep with my hair crawling around like ants and spiders. I knew that in the morning, it might be tangled into a thousand knots, and my head would be raw and bloody from trying to get them out.
But in the morning, my hair wasn’t knotted. Instead, it was perfectly cropped to a uniform short length like a boy’s. It wasn’t jagged, as if Mama had shorn it herself. Rather, it looked perfectly neat.
And perfectly ugly.
Since that day, Mama never brushed my hair with her special brush. When I asked, she said it was lost. My hair grew back again, but not as fast as before. Mama locked me in the house for days, and the next week, we took a long journey on a train, hidden in a special car with our bed the whole time. Then, I was moved to this tower. At first, I loved it. It looked like the castles I’d seen in fairy tale books, and I pretended that I was a princess, special, who needed to be protected from the world. But, as I grew older, I realized that the tower was not a palace but a prison. Here I stayed, all alone but for Mama’s visits. I tried to prepare for the day I might leave. I didn’t know when that would be. If it would ever be.