It's a familiar story: In spite of the obstacles put in her way by her wicked stepmother, Ella goes to the ball, sweeps Prince Charming off his feet, and is chosen to be his bride. Now she's comfortably ensconced in the palace, awaiting marriage to the man of her dreams. It's happily ever after time, right?
Wrong! Life for Ella has become an endless round of lessons and restrictions; even worse, Prince Charming turns out to be more like Prince Boring. Why can't she talk with him the way she can with Jed, her earnest young tutor?
Slowly, Ella comes to realize she doesn't want the life she fought so hard to win. But breaking her engagement proves more difficult -- and dangerous -- than escaping her stepmother's tyranny.
First of all, I have a confession to make: I love fairytale retellings. Just Ella is a delightful retelling of the age old story Cinderella. Of course in this version, Ella is completely capable of taking care of herself while Prince Charming, on the other hand, is not. I loved the fresh spin Margaret Peterson Haddix put on the original story of Cinderella and the addition of many new characters (don’t worry, characters from the tale of Cinderella that we all know so well make an appearance). As a child I always wondered what would happen when Cinderella reached the palace. Would she enjoy the responsibilities of a princess? Would she find that she truly loved the prince even after his flaws were revealed? Just Ella answers all of my questions and more, recreating the world of Cinderella so vividly in the pages that I feel like I’m watching the movie again. Ella tells her story in the blunt, fresh voice of a girl just discovering that the world isn’t anything like she imagined it to be and that she is, to put it frankly, disappointed. She is a relatable character and it is entertaining to see her learn about the world around her and herself as she grows throughout the book.
Just Ella is a quick read, perfect for curling up with on the couch while drinking hot cocoa after a Thanksgiving meal. The plot is fast moving and doesn’t involve any long term book commitments (I’m looking at you Count of Monte Cristo) which is nice if other things are taking up a lot of your time (school anyone?). The ending is surprising and pleasing, wrapping up the book in a realistic but happy way and not seeming hypocritical or at odds with the rest of the story. One of my favorite things about Just Ella was the underlying tone of feminism and empowering women that was present in the book. I loved the way that Margaret Peterson Haddix turned Cinderella, a story about a young girl being saved by a prince and a fairy godmother, to a story about a smart young woman who saved herself and found out what she truly wanted. Ella wasn’t afraid of self examination and she understood her flaws as well as her virtues. I admired that fact that Ella had guts. She was not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself, despite the consequences and the people telling her that she should just do what she was told. I would recommend Just Ella to fans of the Cinder which is another phenomenal book. Just Ella is a great fairytale retelling for anyone who has wondered what comes next after the movie credits role.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and get reading! Remember TBF is only six months away. Until next time.