Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
It is so refreshing to read a really original plot–even one that is based entirely around one of the oldest and most beloved fairy tales–that I cannot say enough incredible things about this story. At the same time, it is so out-of-the-ordinary and handles uncommon plot threads in a seamless, no-big-thing kind of way.
In this fictional kingdom, the Cinderella fairy tale is practically their religion. Blind allegiance to the king is required, the subjugation of women is even more prevalent. Every household must own and memorize the Bible, of sort–a pristine, palace-approved version of Cinderella. Worse, every household must send its daughter at age 16 to the ball to be selected by the men of the kingdom.
Failure to do so means death.
So what is a 16-year-old girl to do if she has no interest in marriage–and if her girlfriend refuses to run away with her?
What makes this story so intriguing is not the LGBTQ elements, the women’s rights issues, or even the fact that men’s clothing has pockets and women’s clothing does not (I’ll admit, I laughed out loud when a character explains her preference for men’s clothing simply by stating, “It has pockets.”), but that we see an entirely different telling of Cinderella. What if everything we know about the original story is a lie that was put forth by the palace to control the subjects? And what if the only one who can help the main character is a fairy godmother who’s done terrible things, and who should have died 200 years ago?
This is one of those rare treats that actually does make you stay up all night to see what happens. It dealt with “sensitive” subjects and offered incredible opportunities for much-needed representation. It was just a winner all the way around!
After borrowing the ebook three times from my library and never even getting a chance to open it before it auto-returned, I actually SCHEDULED a time to get it, open it, and read it. I was NOT sorry I did! This book is delightful. At times intriguing and uplifting, at other times heart-wrenching and soul-burning, it’s a very clear portrayal of something we often don’t learn about: Reconstruction-era life for lots of people, especially marginalized communities.
Jo Kuan is equal parts brilliantly intelligent and lovably endearing. You just want her to win, she’s so well depicted. Her plotting and her opinionated nature could easily be the end of her, though she still manages to rise to the top.
The historical portrayal in this novel was gripping, too. The plight of freed slaves in the South, Chinese laborers who’d been brought in to “replace” slaves, women who were still expected to marry well even if they didn’t wish to marry at all, even the women who fought for (and against each other’s) voting rights were amazingly done.
From the book description:
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.
While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.
Of all the supernatural main characters in any great YA series, mermaids are the best. They’re playful…or they’re not. They’re splashy…or they’re not. They sun themselves on rocks while they wait for Prince Eric to come around…or not. It all depends on the author, doesn’t it?
Douglas Sloan’s mermaids aren’t the “sun on the rock in the shell bra” variety of mermaids. Instead, they’re embroiled in a battle against evil forces, one that turns dark and deadly from the very first page. When a human scientist finds a mermaid washed ashore for the first time, it begins a world of discovery for both of them. The Earthquest aspect to the storyline is fun and intriguing without all the preachy “look what you humans have done to my beautiful ocean” tropes of other mermaid tales.
Over all, it’s a dark but fun read, and as this is book one, the author seems poised to continue the saga. I can’t wait to see how it plays out!