Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron: Badass Girls Taking Down the Patriarchy? Yes, Please!

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Published: July 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Retelling/Dystopian/LGBTQ+
# of pages: 400
My rating: 4.5 stars
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
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Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew...

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them. 

Between the gorgeous cover and this pitch - “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella" - I knew I had to read Cinderella is Dead. I’ve always been a fan of fairytales and retellings, and this one has made it onto my list of top favourites.

All the girls in the kingdom of Lille are forced to attend the annual ball, during which the goal is to be chosen for marriage. They have three chances, after which they’re considered undesirable and are often forfeited to the palace, never to be seen or heard from again. In Lille, women are little more than possessions, and men are allowed to treat them however they see fit, which is often with abuse and absolutely no respect. Sophia doesn’t want any part of that for herself or anyone else; she knows things should be different, and she wants to live a happy, free life with her girlfriend. Disgusted and disheartened, Sophia flees her first ball and ends up at Cinderella’s mausoleum, where she meets the only living descendent of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Constance, and begins to learn that the true tale of Cinderella is far different from the palace-approved version known to everyone in the land.

I loved so many things about this book. As I was reading, I saw countless parallels to today’s reality, and I loved how the story was a commentary on modern society and the issues many people face while also incorporating magical elements that managed to feel realistic. The world Sophia lived in was bleak and heartbreaking, but she was such a bright light. She wanted to live in a world where women weren’t possessions and couldn’t be forfeited for things beyond their control, where they were able to choose who and what they wanted to be - and who they wanted to be with. When she met Constance and saw how brave, tenacious, and determined she was, she realized it was possible for her to be like that too. Those things had been in her all along, despite being told she wasn’t entitled to happiness or freedom, and Constance helped her see it was possible to do more than just wish things were different.

I really loved how Cinderella is Dead turned the familiar tale on its head in so many ways. A lot of people have an issue with the Cinderella story because they don’t like the idea of the prince ‘saving’ her or the insta-love aspect, or, in the case of the live-action Disney remake, the fact Cinderella’s motto was “have courage and be kind” but it led to her being a pushover. Sophia and Constance knew courage was necessary, but they put actual action behind it too. They were a fierce pair, and I cheered them on every step of the way. Sophia challenged the status quo and knew things should be different and could be, and meeting Constance helped her see how she could act on that desire for change and equality.

Full of fierce, kickass characters, an engaging plot, and enough magic to completely enchant you, Cinderella is Dead is a hopeful, inspiring modern-day fairytale that should be on everyone’s TBR.

Have you read Cinderella is Dead? Do you have a favourite fairytale retelling?

*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

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