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?
A very satisfying look at what happens to Cinderella after the wins the Prince.
A cinderella story with a twist. good read for 11-14 year olds.