Author(s): Jennifer Donnelly
A startling, fiercely feminist re-imagining of Cinderella from bestselling, award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly.
Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.
When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.
Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.
At least, that’s what she believes until she encounters an elderly widow and a roguish marquis—and finds herself an unwitting pawn in an eternal disagreement. The widow – cold, cynical Fate – contends that an ugly girl with so much bitterness in her heart can never change her destiny. Chance – the dashing, mysterious marquis – believes that Isabelle can chart her own course no matter what stands in her way. And he intends to prove it.
Evoking the darker, earlier versions of the Cinderella story, bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly shows us that ugly is in the eye of the beholder, and uses her trademark wit and wisdom to send an overlooked character on a journey toward empowerment, redemption, and a new definition of beauty.
In a house on the edge of St Michel hard times have fallen on its inhabitants — three girls and their mother. When the handsome prince calls looking for the beautiful girl with whom he danced at the ball the previous night, Octavia and Isabelle cut off their toes in an attempt to fit into the glass slipper, but end up only trailing blood in the dirt. Then Cinderella escapes from the attic, pulls the other glass slipper from her ragged pocket, steps into it and rides off into the sunset with her prince.
Meanwhile, Fate, an old crone, and Chance, a dashing marquis, are locked in a furious battle over what happens next on Isabelle’s life map. Fate is adamant that mortals cannot be allowed to make their own choices, but Chance has seen some good in Isabelle’s character and wants to give her the opportunity to recognise her strengths and overcome the jealousy and resentment at how her life has turned out so far.
Donnelly vividly re-imagines the story of Cinderella in this “sequel” in which traitorous soldiers rise up against the King. Isabelle discovers their plot, but can she pluck up the courage to alter her destiny?
In the original fairytale the two stepsisters are ugly and cruel and Cinderella is the beautiful, kind girl. But in Donnelly’s version we discover the back story to what turned these once great friends into bullies and victims.
Stepsister is a wonderful and very funny feminist fairytale for age 13+ that redefines how we value the notion of beauty and emphasises the fact that girls can do anything.
"Printz Honor winner Donnelly offers up a stunningly focused story that ripsinto the heart of familiar fairy tale. Isabelle [is] a shattered but not unreedemable girl with a warrior's heart." -- Booklist, starred review
"This is another needed voice exposing cultural myths that suffocate girls in the name of likability and pit them against one another in the name of beauty." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Isabelle's emotional and triumphant journey of self-realization proves that beauty can be found in so much more than just a pretty face . . . A breathlessly exciting and utterly satisfying fairy tale." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Focusing on beauty's many guises, what contributes to hatred and cruelty, and people's power to take charge of their destinies, the retold fairy tale advocates autonomy and empowerment." -- Publishers Weekly
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of thirteen novels and a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State and studied English Literature and European History at the University of Rochester.
Jennifer's first novel, THE TEA ROSE, is an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century. Her second novel, A GATHERING LIGHT, set against the backdrop of an infamous murder in the Adirondacks of 1906, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book.
In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling WATERFIRE saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil.
Jennifer lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter and two rescue dogs. Follow Jennifer at www.jenniferdonnelly.com or on Twitter: @JenWritesBooks