More adult and reality-driven than Ella Enchanted, Just Ella is an interesting look at the "happily-ever-after" ending of the original fairy tale. Ella Brown in this story is fleshed out to become a realistic heroine forced to fit into the fragile and uncomfortable glass slippers of a princess. She shows herself to be resourceful and clever; however, for some reason, I never liked her as much as Ella of Frell from Ella Enchanted. Haddix, while very cleverly explaining the matters of the glass slippers and dress (think Ever After for the dress), never develops the characters enough to make them anything more than sketches of potential never fully realized. And I agree with a previous reviewer that the romance seemed a little predictable. (One of two eligible male characters in the book, the other of which is the insipid prince.) An interesting undercurrent in Just Ella was the true meaning of True Love, often mentioned so flippantly in fairy tales.
Just Ella didn't quite satisfy me-- it was neither as charming as Ella Enchanted, nor as psychologically intense as Donna Jo Napoli's retellings. What it did provide was an often ironic, imaginative and creatively rewritten Cinderella that was a definite departure from the usual fairy tale. For another Cinderella retelling, I highly recommend Silver Woven in my Hair, in which magic is inherent, though not implicitly stated. If you liked the court setting, The Crown and Court Duet by Sherwood Smith provides a more realistic (and less mocking) description of court life.
"Just Ella" is an excellent twist of the well-known fairy tale, Cinderella. In the story, the heroine comes to realize that she is not suited for life in the castle, and that she doesn't want to marry the Prince after all. However, it turns out to be much harder than she expected to break the engagement.
All in all, it's a story about one girl's self-reliance and individualism.
A comforting read, but not terribly imaginative, as this kind of retelling and modernization has been done before. As a matter of fact, the author seems to have taken the basis for her story from other works, or why else would Ella's father have been a book seller? It seems to me that the one distinguishing characteristic of Cinderella in all the variations I've read is her love of books and her father's love of books. Can't anybody think of something new?
I guess this was written for the "young adult" market of which I TOTALLY am not. But I enjoyed this. A take off on the Cinderella story. Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it? Well, Ella does. She finds a way to get to the ball and impresses the Prince with her beauty. This is a story of people who follow the leader, who are so ensnared with "the ideal" that they don't, or cannot, see reality. A story of a young woman who ends up finding herself and LIVING for herself - and realizing that while everyone needs help sometimes, ultimately, you have to help yourself.
In this interesting re-telling of the famous Cinderella story, Ella realizes after she starts living at the palace that she has entered a boring world where rules govern her every move. She realizes that she doesn't want that sort of life, so she decides she wants out. This proves to be difficult...
I read this book a few years ago, and I thought it was great. I re-read it several times.
I generally try to review books that don't have many reviews. Consider this an exception to my rule. Why? Because it's so thoroughly forgettable. I read it, thought I had enjoyed it, and then completely forgot how it ended. I mean, it's well written and all that, I give the author props for knowing how to write engaging sentences. But I literally forgot what had happened in the book a couple months after I read it. I was looking through a list of re-imagined fairy tales and saw the title, it looked familiar, I checked the cover, remembered reading it, but could not for the life of me remember what happened. I think I eventually looked it up on goodreads or something. Obviously I didn't bond with the character (who was not stuck up, but frustrated by only being seen as an object, and who really has that problem? Very few people, I find, can ONLY find recognition for being beautiful.) Still, a lesson in caution, thinking through situations, and looking beyond surface beauty. It has redeeming qualities, just not enough to make it a really good book. I'd rather read one of the twenty-seven million other books on my list of books to read before I die. But I've read this one now, so I'll impart my wisdom to others.
Also, the girl can't come up with her own dream--what's up with that? She goes from being one kind of sheep to a more compassionate sheep. I know finding a dream isn't always easy, I suppose that could be the "lesson" in Ella, but surely she could think of SOMETHING she wanted to do with her life.