The next victim of my rereading spree was one of my favorite books in elementary school: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I’m surprised this book is not more popular these days with the fairytale craze of ABC’s Once Upon A Time and other fairytale re-tellings and adaptations. I guess the hipster in me wants to point out that Ella Enchanted was a fairytale adaptation before such things were cool, but it isn’t just the Cinderella aspect of the book that makes it so good. It’s a unique, clever, and entertaining story whose movie did it no justice at all.
At Ella’s birth, the fairy Lucinda gives her a gift, only the gift turns out to be more like a curse. Ella must obey every order she is given–from “tie your shoe” to “jump off a cliff”. Even though this gift was supposed to make Ella an obedient child, it turns her into a rebel, as she despises being forced to do what other people tell her. Ella is spunky and independent, like a good heroine should be, but she is also kind and genuine. She befriends the girl in finishing school that everyone was mean to, she slides down bannisters with her friend Prince Char, and takes an interest in languages and other cultures. But despite her fun disposition, Ella is constantly persecuted by her curse. Her stepsisters abuse her obedience, the teachers at finishing school order her about, and–most importantly–her curse makes it impossible for her to marry the boy she loves.
I love this book for several reasons. Ella is a great heroine and easily relatable for girls in elementary school. She likes to have fun, cares about her friends, and just wants to be free to be herself. The world is fun, a fairytale world filled with elves, orgres, gnomes, and fairies. The writing is also fun, lighthearted but serious when it needs to be. And though it may be weird for a 22-year-old to reflect on, Prince Char is also fantastic.
Ella Enchanted was a children’s classic when I was growing up, and it still is today. But it was great rereading it as an adult. I think older readers will still admire and relate to Ella. I think she’s a very important heroine for girls in elementary school. She’s spunky, different, and independent without being feminist propaganda like in a lot of YA novels. She’s a quirky character without being the stereotypical quirky girl. She’s a great character in a a great book. And for the sake of all that is holy, don’t judge the book by the movie. At least not this time.