Stepsister Review! // one of the best retellings i’ve ever read

Hi friends! I’m here with my review of Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly because guess what: I FINALLY FINISHED IT!!!

me right now

In case you didn’t know, I’ve been reading this since August. Well, technically listening. I really don’t do well with audiobook listening, but ever since I’ve started leeching off my family’s Scribd account I’ve felt better about it. It helps that there’s not really a deadline, like with Overdrive. Anyways, let’s talk about the book!

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.

listen folks. i’ve read quite a few retellings in my day.

My all-time favorites are the Lunar Chronicles. However, it’s actually gotten to be quite difficult to find a unique retelling. That’s especially true for the *ahem* over-saturated tales like Beauty and The Beast and Cinderella. But this? This took the prize for one of the best retellings I’ve ever read.

First of all, we have this game between Fate and Chance. Each is betting on whether or not Isabelle’s life can be saved, and so a competition of wits begins. I adored the two characters! It was so interesting having a grander narrative, and two characters operating nearly outside the realm of mortals.

On that note, ISABELLE. The world knows her as one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. Yet, she’s more than that. Her character development is absolutely astounding. All her life, she’s been forced into dresses, told she was ugly, made to be something that she was simply not. And she acted out in jealousy, anger, rage. But watching her growth…it’s so incredible.

“They were not pretty, these women. Pretty did not begin to describe them.

They were shrewd. Powerful. Wily. Proud. Dangerous.

They were strong.

There were brave.

They were beautiful.”

Tavi, the other stepsister, was also amazing. And hilarious. While Isabelle is made of sword and steel, Tavvy is made of equations and formulas. Yet, both are equally valid.

this book is a love letter to girls, to women, of all kinds.

This a story that resounds with feminism. Yes, it has action. But a lot of the action takes place within Isabelle, within her mind. It’s a quiet sort of tale, sometimes. And that’s okay.

I found myself giggling out loud quite a few times. The dialogue was so simple, yet sometimes so hilarious. Also, it was usually Tavi and Hugo.

“The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.”

“No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi.”

The connections to the original fairy-tale were very well-done. I enjoyed all the unique twists and turns, but I also loved catching hints of the original, dark Brothers Grimm tale.

TW: mutilation, bad-self-image, violence

In conclusion, this was an amazing book. I adored so many aspects of it, and the only reason I didn’t rate it five stars was because I didn’t quite get that 5 star vibe, ya know? You can add this on Goodreads or buy on Amazon! Have you read this? Do you have a favorite retelling?

16 thoughts on “Stepsister Review! // one of the best retellings i’ve ever read

  1. Yay I’m so glad you finished this and loved it!! It is my favourite retelling ever as well, whoop whoop!!
    Fate and Chance were the best and I hope they feature in more of Jennifer Donnelly’s books (because her snow white retelling coming out this year has a similar cover so fingers crossed)!!
    Isabelle was a wonderful character, I loved her growth and learning to accept herself!!
    I loved reading all your thoughts and you’ve reminded me why I loved it so much!! Wonderful review!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh yay I’m glad you ended up enjoying this so much. I read it last year and loved it too!! Like you said Isabelle’s growth was fantastic and I really enjoyed seeing the different take on ‘ugly’ in this story. I also adored Fate & Chance – especially Chance, his scenes were always so chaotic but for his character it worked. I can’t wait for the authors next retelling!!

    Liked by 1 person

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