Just Ella

Just Ella
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster

So what first attracted me to this book was the fact that it was a retelling of Cinderella that didn’t have magic in it. Good sign, right? Well….yes and no. There were things I liked about this book, but there were more things about it that I disliked.

What I liked: Definitely the no magic. I also liked the fact that it did question the whole love-at-first-sight deal with Ella and the prince- Ella realizes she never loved him, she was just attracted to him. I also liked the "real" hero of the story. He was SO much better than Prince Charming!

What I didn’t like? Well, first off, Ella isn’t the sweet, close-to-perfect heroine of Disney recollections. She’s spunky, and certainly doesn’t treat her stepmother with any respect. Now, I can’t really blame her for that (who can?) but it really made me feel a little sad- not because she was "spunky"- but because she didn’t have the self-sacrificing, turn-the-other-cheek personality that we all know Cinderella to have. She deliberately goes to the ball, not so much because she wants to, but because she just wants to spite her stepmother. Of course, going to the ball causes her a lot of problems down the road, so one can’t say she was really "rewarded" for her disobedience.

Another thing that bothered me was that when Ella is being taught the "official" religion in preparation to be a princess, she and her tutor admit to each other they never were really raised in faith, and though I appreciated that they pointed out that the royals and priests didn’t have "real" faith- it was all self-righteous show- it is implied that taking charge of one’s fate oneself and acting is a better way to spend time than trusting in faith.

Okay, but now we come to the real kicker: the book ends with Ella escaping from the palace and choosing, not to become a princess, but to become a doctor.

Yes, you totally read that right.

There was feminism in here? You bet, and if you know anything about me, you know that annoys me to death in any book. Now, I do want to say that the "royal" femininity that the palace tried to mold Ella to match wasn’t Biblical, fair, practical, or should be approved by any Christian. Being sheltered from every care in the world, doing nothing but looking pretty and saying polite nothings, and basically being nothing but an ornament is NOT awesome or okay. But really, the whole running-away-from-becoming-a-princess-and-becoming-a-doctor-instead was just a little too unbelievable and worthy of a little eye-rolling. (Okay, so maybe not the running away- I’d have done it to. But the doctor bit was just, "really?")

I alos didn’t care for some of the language in this book. It seemed a little "slangy" and sometimes could be mildly crude. Ella was not really the most refined person in the world.

 Just Ella just wasn’t a fairy tale, and it wasn’t just from lack of magic. It was almost as if the author stuck modern people from today into a fictional setting. Maybe it’s more realistic that way, but it left me feeling disappointed, like having someone dumping a glass of ice-cold water on my face to wake me up. Is this really "today’s" princess? Sigh. I’ll take the original hardworking-but-sweet Grimm’s version any day.

Objectionable Content: there are a few kisses, a man is stabbed, and though there wasn’t any swearing, there were a few words I would consider more crude than otherwise.

Rating: 4


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