Published by Scholastic Inc. on September 1, 1998
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Humorous Stories, Media Tie-In, Young Adult
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.
Gail Carson Levine's examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.
I read Ella Enchanted for the first time in seventh grade. I remember reading the book so clearly because I had actually gotten to decide for myself that I wanted to read it. Am I the only one who looks back on those dreaded years of middle school and will gripe about how we never had any freedom to read what we wanted to read? Forcing someone to read is one of my pet peeves, and, not only is this book wonderful—the second time around included—but it broadcasted that little bit of freedom that I was given to search the shelves myself.
Firstly, this was a retelling of a fairy tale that practically every girl knows: Cinderella. I read this book for my children’s lit class and did some background on the book, looking up the awards that it had received, finding the age level, etc., and came across the author’s website. For those who haven’t picked up a Gail Carson Levine book, what are you waiting for? Ella’s story was her debut and takes the classic tale and adds a twist, which she explains why on her website. Basically, Levine didn’t understand why we all rooted for Cinderella when she had the option to say no, to fight back. To solve the burgeoning issue, Ella comes with a little bit of a wild side. Ella was forced to do exactly what she was told because she had been ‘blessed’ with the gift of obedience. This added spunk to the tale, strengthening the female lead, one who learned to be strong and resilient, even when neither was an option.
The movie that they made based off the book does not give this story justice. My first encounter with the book was through the movie, but when I read the book, I barely recognized it. If you loved the movie and haven’t read the book, you’ll fall head over glass slippers in love, especially with Prince Charmont! I loved the romance between Ella and Char, the budding romance that took place through chance encounters and then a series of letters (a lost art!). Their friendship turned romance didn’t happen instantaneously, and gave me time to get to know Char for myself. Levine definitely crushed some fairy tale stereotypes with this love story, proving that a happily ever after is possible, even when the two know each other’s downfalls and dark secrets.
This is classified as a book for younger readers, and noticeably so with the writing style, but the characters are older, meaning it’s completely okay to bump the prince up a few years and picture yourself as Ella. Readers of all ages will enjoy this timeless tale with a twist.