I am in a total book hangover after reading Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly. As you may know, Jennifer Donnelly is one of my favorite authors and I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of both Stepsister and Poisoned. These are retelling of two of the most popular fairytale (Cinderella and Snow White) and I was so excited to read them. And trust me, when I read Stepsister it did not disappoint.
Stepsister is a retelling of Cinderla but it is all about one of the step sisters, Isabella. The story starts right as Isabella is trying to fit into the glass slipper, even going as far as trying to cut her own toes off in the process. Right away you can see how broken Isabella is and how she will do almost anything to please her mother. The plan doesn’t work this time though as the Prince catches onto their scheme and Ella gets her happily ever after. And when word gets out about how horrible Ella was treated, her step sisters and step mother are shunned by society.
It wasn’t always like this though. Isabella grew up being fierce and loved to play pirate fighting games and ride horses. Of course this was not acceptable in a society where the men went to war and the women tended to the family. So little by life her spirit was broken and she tried to reform to what society wanted her to be. In the process, she also becomes very bitter, ugly, and easily jealous breaking any close bonds she she had with her sister or step sister. I really enjoyed the breakdown of how Isabella’s jealously often made her react in ways she later regretted but could never take back. To me, this gave her a real sense of humanity that you do not see in other versions of the Cinderella story. You learn what drove her and what has broken her.
Through out the story, there are three unique characters who each have a plan for Isabella’s future. Fate believes her future is all laid out for her and cannot be changed. Chance holds optimism close and tries to encourage Isabella to try another pathway. And the fairy god mother is pushing her to find herself again – to find the missing pieces before she will help her like she did Ella. I loved this dichotomy and the way it played out on the pages. All three characters gave unique personalities and are willing to go as far as needed to help Isabella draw out her route for life. The backstabbing and trickery is a plenty with the three of them!
As I mentioned, Isabelle grew up playing pirates in her backyard. She loved to climb trees and learn all about famous generals and soldiers that fought during war times. She would rather be outside playing than learning how to cook or sew. Stepsister really is Isabella’s journey to finding herself again – finding her heart and her strength. I loved reading each pages she protected herself, her family, and her town little by little finding out who she is meant to be. She finds a new direction for her life and this makes her a stronger female character. Plus, she also learns some fun facts about some female warriors in the process.
Stepsister has everything that I love about Jennifer Donnelly’s books. Beautiful descriptions, detailed characters with emotions and chapters that make it hard to take a break. This is such a fun interpretation of a classic story – well the next steps in a classic story. And it’s an interpretation that makes you think and then unexpectedly have compassion and be rooting for the underdog who becomes a champion.
Rating: 5 Stars