Fiction Books, YA Books

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly – ARC Review

Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I really loved this book! I’m not a fan of Cinderella but the synopsis intrigued me and I’m glad that I read this because it was so great!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.
Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

I really enjoy retellings even when I’m not a fan of the original fairytale and this was no exception. This story made me root for the “ugly” sister, it made me feel for her and hope for a happy ending for her. I think that shows how much I enjoyed it, especially as she is a villain in the original story, tormenting Cinderella.

This book deals with female empowerment and how women should empower other women and not tear them down. How women can be more than what society tells us. They put us in boxes and expect us to stay there. You can only be that one thing that they designate to you and we have to cut away parts of ourselves to fit societies expectations. But this story is about breaking out of these boxes and tearing them down. It’s about being true to yourself and being more than what society tells us to be. And that is what makes us so powerful.

I really liked how fate and chance were personified and how each of them tempted Isabelle to make a choice that could lead her in a completely different direction. Fate told her to play it safe, that change isn’t possible, she made her doubt her own ability. Chance told her to take a stand, to be brave and take that step to take hold of her life and lead it in a different direction, to be who she knows she can be. It made her story feel very real, we all deal with these in our own ways, all the time.

I also loved how the fairy queen came to her just like she did for Ella but Isabelle has to find herself before she can actually realise what her hearts true desire is. At the beginning she thinks it is to be pretty, because everyone tells her she is ugly and therefore won’t amount to anything in life. But her journey of self discovery leads her to who she truly wants to be. It was a hard journey full of self doubt and her having to really look beyond what she was told to be and to truly be who she wanted to be.

Tavi was the other sister and I loved her as much as Isabelle, she’s really smart and doesn’t understand why she has to give up her dream of studying to become a suitable wife. I related to her so much! Why girls have to be the ones to sacrifice an education, that they can’t be too smart, because it will hurt the male ego. It’s something we see throughout the book, Tavi is told that she won’t be able to work out the answers by men, that when she corrects the men they feel insulted.

Even Ella, when we meet her, becomes more than just a pretty girl. And I really loved how the author showed the depth and complexity of each of the girls and how they might not be what we all assume them to be.

Honestly this book is filled with themes that I am so passionate about so it left me with a whirlwind of emotions. I felt angry and sad and hopeful and everything else in between. I highly recommend everyone read this book!

5 thoughts on “Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly – ARC Review”

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