August 23, 2008
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Just Ella isn’t really a retelling of Cinderella, rather it is a sequel of sorts- Haddix imagines what might have happened after the supposed “happily ever after”. As she awaits her wedding day, Ella wonders if her life in the castle, filled with elaborate rules of decorum and the instructors that teach them, is really that of her dreams. And is Prince Charming, handsome though he may be, really the man she loves?
This book is a great antidote to the cloyingly romantic stories that fill the shelves of the fantasy genre. As much as the rags-to-riches motif is a favorite, we often overlook the culture shock that accompanies it. Haddix insightfully imagines what it really might be like to change social stations so dramatically, and beckons the reader to wonder if being a princess is really so grand after all. Just Ella entertains while provoking thought. It’s really not so much a fantasy as a story based on a fairy-tale, set in an alternate world- with a many resemblances to our own complicated times.