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Once Upon a Book Club Review: Is it Worth the Money?

You know when you’re nose-deep into another world and you can practically smell the cologne of the love interest, taste the food of this fictional city, and see the unique objects the main characters interact with? Well, what if I told you that could be brought to life? That’s where Once Upon a Book Club comes in.

Book subscription services are nothing new. You have your standards like the Book of the Month box that delivers one to three books to your home that you select. There are also clubs like Owlcrate that focus on young adult books and provides an assortment of fandom goods from popular series in the world of young adult literature. Once Upon a Book Club takes on a unique approach. This book club delivers a book to your doorstep that is accompanied by three to five related objects that you’ll encounter as you read the book. These are individually wrapped goodies that you will open up when you hit the related marker as you read. Essentially, Once Upon a Book Club makes reading a more immersive experience while building anticipation as you read because you really want to know what’s hidden in those wrapped boxes. The book itself is also sort of a surprise. A hint is released for both their young adult and adult book boxes prior to the box being shipped. It’s fairly easy to figure out what the book is if you plop the description into Google (in case you don’t do well with surprises).

This seemed like a fun new way to experience reading so I decided to give it a try. Here’s my complete, honest review of my experience with Once Upon a Book Club.

Current Cost of Once Upon a Book Club Boxes

Both young adult and adult book boxes range in price from $34.99 to $390. $34.99 is for a month-to-month subscription that auto-renews and charges you monthly. When you prepay for more months at once you get a teeny tiny discount. We’re talking a dollar or two. 

The breakout beyond month-to-month is $100.99 for three months, $199 for six months, and $390 for twelve months.

My recommendation? Check ‘This is a gift’ at checkout. This will give you the option to not automatically renew the subscription. Because there are some months that I’m not interested in the hints and my books can spend months on my TBR pile, I personally wouldn’t want twelve of these (sorta large) boxes showing up at my door each year. Especially when there are some I’d have no interest in. It really depends on your financial situation, your reading style, and personal preference. But that’s just my two-cents. 

Shipping is an additional cost. $10 for the United States. $20 for Canada. $36.50 for the rest of the world as noted in their FAQs. From a marketing standpoint, I think it would be better for them to build the price of shipping into their products. We are all so used to free shipping thanks to places like Amazon. At the end of the day separating out the cost of shipping and the cost of the box is just annoying. You go to purchase and realize it costs even more? No. Just make it a $45 box and call it a day because that’s what it is. 

What You Should Know About Limited Edition Boxes

Once Upon a Book Club regularly releases limited edition boxes. The one being teased currently is the Bridgerton box. Previously they’ve had everything from a middle grade box to a steamy romance box. Their limited edition boxes often lineup with major holidays like New Year’s, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day.

Limited edition boxes have a different price structure that is unique to the box in question.

What’s Included in a Once Upon a Book Club Box?

Each book club box comes with a newly released book in the category you select. The young adult books seemed to be aged down to the 14+ age bracket rather than the older end of young adult. (This is very obvious when you read one of their young adult selections.) The adult genres include contemporary, general, and historical fiction. 

Other than the book, you’ll also receive three to five individually wrapped gifts. The book you receive will have page numbers marked by sticky notes that note which gift to unwrap when you read that line. 

You’ll also receive discussion questions and a 5×7 quote print from the book in the box. 

My Once Upon a Book Box: Train to an Alternate Dimension

I selected the March 2021 young adult box which featured Rebecca Phelps’ book Down World. This book box came with four gifts. 

The Box Itself 

The box itself comes in adorably-themed packaging. I love this! It’s great seeing brands really put effort into proper branding and making their boxes appear pretty besides just being functional. I like that they included a bookmark. The quote card also came with a letter from the author on the back which I thought was a nice touch. It might be a personal thing but I really enjoy getting a bit of insight from authors on their work. This might be because I’m a writer myself though. Lastly the box included a book club kit with discussion dates you can join and questions you can ponder after reading.

The Book 

The book itself… this was a complete miss for me. I read quite a bit of young adult fiction but I tend to read on the older end of the spectrum. There’s debates to be had about reading young adult fiction as an adult and the differences: blah, blah, blah. I’m not here for that. This book could be entertaining for the right audience. I personally think it would work really well as a book that someone in their very early teens buddy reads with a parent. There’s no uncomfortable sexual content that could make the situation awkward.

The writing itself isn’t technically good but this is a newer author who originated on Wattpad. You have to take that style for what it is. She created an interesting situation but the plot fell through for me. That’s my major gripe. We read to be entertained but I wasn’t entertained, I was rather disinterested. The plot was slow, the characters were unlikeable, and the end of the book left me deflated. It’s a series I won’t be continuing. 

But as I said earlier, this would be a really cool book for a parent and their young teen to read together. There’s plenty of quite intriguing concepts and discussions that could be had about the content of the book and the choices we make. 

The Gifts

I’ve never experienced a book box like this before so I felt like a giddy little kid on Christmas morning trying to charge through the gifts. Of course, I made myself wait and I didn’t look for spoilers (it was really hard not too though!). Here’s what came in the box and a few of my thoughts on each:

I’m about to completely spoil this box. This has been your warning. 

  • Egg Timer: Loved this! It tied in nicely and it’s actually useful. I’m using it for my writing sprints right now.
  • Canvas Backpack: Cute and tied into the story nicely. The way the egg timer was in the canvas backpack was extra immersive (bonus points) and it’s something I can use. 
  • Blue Earrings: These were pretty but unusable. The ends are too thick to fit into either of my piercing holes. Eventually, I’ll probably take it apart and place the blue teardrops on different posts. 
  • Flattened Penny: My first thought was, ‘What the heck am I going to do with a flattened penny?’ Gifts that relate to the plot are fun but they should still serve some sort of useful purpose. This one was a miss for me. 
  • Perfume in a Bottle: This was cool to look at and gave me an image in my mind of the item in the book it was meant to represent. The smell is okay but the bottle is a pain to get into. Some people have mentioned using it for decorative purposes. Even if you don’t like the perfume and you don’t want to display it, you can certainly find a use for the glass jar. 

I started out loving the gifts and became slowly disinterested and let down as I went. The idea of immersing yourself into the story is a key part of the purpose behind this box. I’d expect to experience the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. I think they really hit on sound with the egg timer and smell with the perfume in a bottle. I would’ve liked to have seen a snack that related to the plot. Sight and feel are sort of those senses you could do anything with. The canva backpack was a nice gift for touch that still had a use. 

The gifts overall were nice. Some were great and some weren’t and that’s sort of the chance you take when you have no idea what will come in the box. Everyone is different as well. Not everyone is going to look at the blue earrings and be disinterested in them. It does make me wonder at the demographic they lean toward. This is definitely a feminine-focused box with earrings and perfume as two of the major gifts included. 

Verdict: Should You Subscribe to Once Upon a Book Box?

Alright with all that being said. What is my final opinion of the Once Upon a Book Box and will I be purchasing it again in the future? Let’s take a look.

Shipping Experience 

Once shipped the box came pretty quickly. There wasn’t a ton of communication around when it would ship out though. 

Curation of Box 

I’d give the curation a passing grade. My personal experience was alright but I’ve seen previous boxes from this company that did a much better job of curating useful items related to the plot. 

Value Breakdown

With boxes like this, part of what you pay for is the experience and the fact that someone else is curating the products for you. For $45 I received:

  • $10 paperback book
  • $12 egg timer
  • $12 canvas backpack
  • $20 little blue threaded earrings
  • $0 flattened penny
  • $20 perfume in a bottle

This is a book box I’ll definitely keep on my radar. It’s not one I want to receive every single month, especially because it sometimes takes me a bit to get around to books on my TBR. I just don’t want a giant box taking up some of my already limited space. I will be keeping an eye on their upcoming boxes and will likely do a one-off purchase if I come across one that intrigues me. I do recommend this book box, the quality was good and the price was reasonable. 

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