“Why did everyone like that story so much when it wasn’t true? Why was everyone so eager to believe it? Was it because, in real life, ever after’s generally stink?”
Just Ella, a book for reluctant readers, is a retelling of Cinderella, and it is about a girl named Ella who has already won her freedom from her stepmother at the ball and moved into the palace. But training to become a princess is not what Ella thought it would be like in this fairy- tale and folklore-inspired fiction. While being constantly told to act like a “proper lady” by an evil decorum instructor and silent meetings with the prince, Ella realizes she never really was in love with the prince at all.
Ella shows independence in teenage girls and does not sit around crying into the ashes of the fire her stepsisters left for her waiting for a magical solution to her problem. She decides she wants to go to the ball not to meet a prince but to find work with a different family, finds an old gown, alters It and goes. No magic required for this princess-to-be.
Once at the ball the prince of course does decide he is in love with her, cannot live without her, and must bring her back to the castle immediately for their happily ever after and the teenage girl is, of course, ecstatic. No magic required for this teenage romance.
Ella is basically hardcore and she does escape on her own. This fairy tale has no magic, no helpless heroine, no overly heroic prince (although he sort of tries in a very creepy way) and our fifteen-year-old girl is smart! Sadly, the prince only barely understands gender roles, has the personality of a noodle, and a dry one at that. Ella decides that she will not marry the prince, but she is told that she cannot stop the marriage in this thought-provoking tone. Even when the prince is definitely not charming, our woman of steel knows that it will be hard to stop the marriage, and there will be consequences for even trying. This is a really wonderful character-driven storyline to read, and you will not be able to put the book down until you finish it.
I have always loved fairy tales and stories of engagements. Margaret Peterson Haddix has done a great job with an engaging writing style for Just Ella. You will feel for Ella as she stumbles her way to her own happily ever after in her own witty way.