Step sister by Jennifer Donnelly

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Hot Key Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781471407970.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fairy tale retelling, Stepsisters, Bullying, Redemption, Feminism. I'm very fond of the retelling of fairy tales and this one kept me reading to finish it in a couple of sittings. Award winning author Donnelly takes the reader on an engrossing tour examining what happens to Cinderella's step family after she leaves to marry the prince. Isabelle, one of the ugly stepsisters, had cut off her toes in an effort to win the hand of the prince and now finds it difficult to walk, while the whole family has been shunned by the villagers who taunt them for what they did to Cinderella. Meanwhile the Fates have mapped out a path for Isabelle, one that Chance their rival is determine to change. Tanaquill, the fairy queen also becomes involved in Isabelle's life and offers her the chance to find the three missing pieces of her heart, granting her one wish and hereon her life begin to change. Isabelle believes that being pretty is the most important thing that she could wish for and begins a journey to find her heart, on the way learning that her strengths of bravery and fearlessness are ones worth having.
Donnelly confronts society's view of what a young woman should be like as Isabelle meets danger, and with daring and cunning overcome much adversity. Her descriptions of how Isabelle was ridiculed for her 'ugly' appearance and her fierce fighting ability and Tavi, her sister, for her intelligence and scholarly interests will resonate with readers who will relish the girls' gradual transformation from a pair trying to be beautiful and fit a mould into doing what they do best, even if it is not what their mother or many men judge fit for young women.
Although a fairly lengthy book, (469 pages), short chapters and snappy dialogue make this an easy to read story and the reader will quickly identify with Isabelle as she struggles with how she has behaved with Ella, her sorrow about losing Felix and her horse Nero and her triumphant coming of age.
Pat Pledger