When Ella was a baby, a misguided fairy bestowed on her the “gift” of obedience; whenever anyone gives her a direct order, she must obey. Although the fairy’s curse presents certain challenges, growing up at home with her mother and her beloved fairy godmother (and cook), Mandy, Ella has never been ordered to do anything too dangerous. But when her mother dies, and her father decides to send her to finishing school, Ella’s world is turned upside down. Two spiteful girls discern her secret and begin to use her obedience against her. Through the terrors of finishing school, Dame Olga’s daughters, and run-ins with dangerous ogres, the only things that keep her spirits high are her friendship with Prince Char and the hope that one day she may be able to break her curse.
I just reread this childhood favorite, and it is just as funny and delightful now as it was when I was nine. Levine’s story is a brilliant spin-off of the Cinderella tale with fascinating, deep characters. You cannot help but fall in love with Ella, Char, and Mandy—for all of their goodness and their flaws. Although the reading level is appropriate for elementary schoolers (and the fractured fairytale will surely appeal to young readers), I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to teens as well. Ella and Char’s friendship and romance is sweet, funny, exciting, and full of love and self-sacrifice. I cannot recommend it highly enough to readers who enjoy fantasy and/or fractured fairytales! And now I really want to go home and slide down the banisters. . . .