Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Jennifer Donnelly won my heart, all the way back in high school, with her debut novel, A Northern Light, and I’ve been reading her books obsessively ever since. When I found out she had a new book coming out, I was so excited that I had to put it on hold at my local library immediately. Since then, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging to be read. I finally was able to push it up to the front after I finished There’s Something About Sweetie, and I’m still just stunned. I finished it yesterday and I’m completely in awe; this might be the best book in Donnelly’s entire body of work, and one of my favorite books of 2019.
I’ll officially start with a confession. When I was a little girl, I hated princesses and all things pink and feminine. Snow White and Cinderella in particular, because they weren’t ‘feminist’. I gravitated toward Ariel when I was younger, and then Belle, later in life. But Stepsister gives us a glimpse of what happens after the happily ever after. Even before I knew the original story by The Brothers Grimm, I couldn’t help wondering what exactly happened to Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters. Donnelly focuses on one of Ella’s stepsisters, Isabelle. After being caught trying to deceive the crown prince into thinking that she is her lovely, sweet stepsister, she and her family are soon caught up in a game of truly epic proportions. All Isabelle has ever wanted is to be beautiful, but it turns out that the price of beauty may be too high for her to pay, and mysterious forces are working to change her fate. Will Isabelle succumb to the vices that got her labeled an ‘ugly’ stepsister? Or will she find the courage to forge her own path, in spite of her mistakes?
I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. Written with Donnelly’s signature humor, fantasy, and style, I loved it so much. I also really liked the way that she flipped the script and started the story after Isabelle tried to fool the prince. But the real star of this was Isabelle and her growth throughout the book; it was so cool to watch her transform from a mean, petty child into a young woman capable of finding her own strength in the face of adversity. This book felt like a fairy tale, with distinct echoes from the original tale: the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, magic and mayhem. But I liked the way that she used war, love, and compassion to temper Isabelle into something stronger, in the end. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn in by Isabelle’s tale; I loved the way Chance and The Fates worked throughout the book to try and deter her from her true path. This is Cinderella as you’ve never seen it before, with the spotlight on the ugly stepsisters and given feminist twists! This is the Cinderella story I’ve been waiting on my whole life. Donnelly, once again, has penned a fantastic, beautiful and honest fantasy story with strong female heroines at its heart, and I loved it so much! Is it too much to hope for a sequel about Isabelle’s sister, Tavi? The bottom line: Rich, funny, romantic and brave, I loved Stepsister! Next on deck: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics!