fiction · middle grade

Book Review: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I needed a modern retelling of a classic for the 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge. I’m not usually super into these – nothing wrong with them, they’re just not my style – so this was a bit of a tough one to pick out. I did finally find one, though, and the best part was that I could share it with my daughter! Together, we read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Scholastic, 1997), a delightful retelling of the story of Cinderella.

The novel opens with Ella, cursed from birth by a well-intentioned fairy, to always be obedient. Almost no one knows of this curse, save Ella’s mother and the helpful cook. When Ella’s mother dies, her clueless and self-serving father ships her off to finishing school, where she’s quickly taken advantage of by a pair of social climbing sisters who end up becoming – ugh – her stepsisters. A nighttime escape puts Ella once again in the path of Prince Char, and their blossoming friendship is as adorable and sweet as you’d expect.

But the ever-present curse is always there, and it’s ruining Ella’s life. Before it dooms her to a life of eternal servitude, Ella’s got to figure out a way out of it…but how???

Super sweet and fun book! My daughter really enjoyed this. Gail Carson Levine does a great job of leaving plenty of chapters off in cliffhangers (and those were, of course, where we managed to stop reading almost every time!). It follows the path of Cinderella quite well, with a few unique twists, and reminded me a lot of the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore, which was, of course, another Cinderella retelling. It’s a charming book and makes for an enjoyable read-aloud, especially when you’re reading to a little girl who enjoys fairy tales. I just placed the movie adaptation with Anne Hathaway on hold from the library, so hopefully she’ll enjoy that just as much. : )

Visit Gail Carson Levine’s website here.


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