By Jennifer Donnelly
I read Jennifer Donnelly’s Lost in a Book which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I truly loved it, so Stepsister was highly anticipated. There’s a special place in my heart for fairy tales, especially Cinderella. To be honest, I haven’t read that many Cinderella retellings.
Will my review spoil this book? Not totally…although I do mention the plot and certain themes which lead into the ending.
Stepsister begins right at the end of Cinderella as the prince seeks the girl to fit the slipper. Isabelle and Octavia–the evil stepsisters–will do whatever it takes to get the slipper to fit, even if it requires cutting off parts of their feet. Once everyone notices what the sisters have done, they are shamed and hated throughout the kingdom, and their sister Ella now sits with the prince.
Life is difficult for the sisters, but more so for Isabelle, as she struggles to accept herself and has much to learn about true beauty. I found Isabelle’s character relatable, and her actions are nearly justified due to how’s she’s been treated; her mother tells her she’s ugly, etc. She’s had rough times, done evil things, and this has left her feeling angry and jealous, but eventually, she wants to find ways to redeem herself and to fight back once she begins to see what’s right and important. As for Octavia, she seems like the stronger sister, but is she? She’s certainly smart. Her character was more in the background, but I liked this sister relationship compared to the original. Overall, I loved the character development here. Adding in Fate and Chance who are both battling to change Isabelle’s outcome was an aspect that made this retelling so unique.
The first parts of this book had me cringing and yet I couldn’t put it down. These parts were very dark and unexpected. As the story went on, sadly, I just wasn’t as captivated. I liked the short chapters, but it still went a bit slow for me in the middle. Because the majority of the fairy tale itself isn’t pretty, it was a little hard for me to love the ending with the way it was written because it wasn’t totally fitting. Don’t get me wrong: I love redemption and it did end somewhat the way I expected it would because after all, it is a fairy tale retold, but it just didn’t feel totally right to me.
With all that said, is it correct to say that I think this is an important book? I think so! Characters struggle with change and one of the biggest is learning how to accept yourself. Beauty isn’t everything. This is something I myself have struggled with in life with the American culture and what ‘it’ considers admirable traits. It’s all too easy to become filled with lies as Isabelle has. Because of this, the book did remind me of Beauty by Robin Mckinley at times. So, I do think this can be an excellent read for all ages, especially younger readers which is obviously intended being that it’s YA.
Themes include beauty, forgiveness, loss, redemption, family, and acceptance.
I do love Jennifer Donnelly’s writing and can’t wait to read more of her books. I also adore the cover of Stepsister. Anyone who enjoys retellings and fantasy should check out this book.
- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 – 9
- Lexile Measure: 640 (What’s this?)
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Press (May 14, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1338268465
- ISBN-13: 978-1338268461
This is book #5 for the 2019 Retelling Reading Challenge. To see my challenge you can click the image below.
Thanks for reading my review! Have you read this book or others by Jennifer Donnelly? Let’s chat!