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19 September, 2010

Cholle's Bookshelf: A book review of: Just Ella - Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella - Cover

Every once in a while, when my library stack drops below, oh, 20 books or so, I'll just roam a random section of the library and grab books that jump out at me. I'm a judge-a-book-by-it's-cover-until-I-read-the-actual-book type, so sue me. When nothing specific jumps out at me, I'll go to a familiar author and find books by that author that I haven't read yet. And that is how I ended up with Just Ella on my reading list.

Go figure - I mixed up 'Margaret Peterson Haddix', author of 'Among the Hidden' which was okay, with 'Mary Downing Hahn' author of "Wait 'Til Helen Comes" and "The Doll in the Garden", whom I LOVE. Mary Downing Hahn writes teen and young adult ghost stories. Not too scary, but slightly creepy, and creative, well written, and extremely interesting. Not to mention easy, quick reads for those nights that I can't sleep and want a book I can ready with my flashlight in the dark and not have to continue in the bright cheery morning. I would definitely recommend her books, and I'll definitely be grabbing a few on my next trip to the library!

But, since I made such an egregious (;]) error, I thought I should read it anyway. The story seemed enticing enough: It's the story of what happens to Cinderella AFTER she agrees to marry Prince Charming and is swept away to 'happily ever after'. Needless to say, that's not what she finds at the castle with her gossiping, daft ladies-maids, quietly tittering about the new princess's mistakes, her strict and foolish tutors, who are unyielding in the ridiculous rules of royal protocol, and of course, Prince UNCharming, who is brainless, personality-less, and really only interested in marrying a gorgeous girl who can pop out some gorgeous kids to follow in the gorgeous tradition set forth by his gorgeous ancestors.

The first half of the book is Ella complaining about the above mentioned hinderences in her happily ever after, plus being forced to stitch tapestries instead of taking care of her own fire or, may all her tutors properly faint, talking about something un-dainty. With all these boring things being forced on her, no wonder she starts to see the creep of a prince isn't who she thought he was (REALLY?? Somebody you danced with, said two words to, then agreed to marry???? REALLY??? I'm shocked.) and that she's not sure she's actually in love with.

Enter Jed, stage right. Cute, motivated, and passionate son of a tutor who lets her use her wit and ask forbidden questions. A little stupid, stubborn, and unwilling to act, but overall, I really like him. He's the only character I cared for at all. He had some kind of spunk to him. Jed's dream is to run a camp for refugees stripped of their homes by the war between two neighboring kingdoms, yet he's supposed to be following in Daddy's footsteps. Be some royal something or another. But when Ella goes drastic and stirs up the story, he realizes his dream(s).

So let's put it this way. I hated the beginning of the story. It was boring, it dragged, and all the characters were lame shells of people. Ella is whiny and I really didn't want her to have a happy ending. I was sitting there going 'YEAH, SUCKER!! MARRY YOUR STUPID PRINCE LAME-O. THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING STUPID!! MUWAHAHA!!' But the second half, once Jed came into the picture, I really liked it. I knew what was going to happen, but I didn't know how. I was surprised (which is crazy for me!), and a little grossed out, to be honest. But the writing was exponentially better, but that could be because the story was more interesting. then... the ending. Grrr. I wanted to scream. The ending is not friendly. In the least. If you like cliff-hangers that NEVER get answers, then a must read. HA.

Parental guide: not much to be terribly worried about. The biggest thing is in the second half the prince and his advisors bring in a nasty guy to persuade the princess to fall into line. Later on it's revealed that he was sentenced to death for a string of rapes. Not exactly the kind of thing kids need to know about. There was also some violence and cruelty. The prince himself kills the rapist in front of Ella. Plus on the refuge there are a lot of wounded victims that are described in minimum. The actions of Ella's step family, along with the majority of  the palace's inhabitants are very cruel and emotionally to mildly physical abuse.Language, nothing, really. Just a lot of whines.

Overall rating - 2.8 out of 5. May someday grace my bookshelf.


"Fudge, Pshaw, and Other Salty Expressions." -Bullwinkle, from the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

Live, let live, be happy.

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