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Cinder & Ella ~ Kelly Oram

August 16, 2019

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Genre: Young Adult/Romance
Publisher: Bluefields
ISBN: 9780991457953
322 pages
Source: Amazon

Being a teenager is hard enough.

Add in a dad who left you and your mom in Boston and hightailed it to the West Coast for a new family and you’ve got yourself an official hard time.

Ella and her mother are making it through, anyway. They have their Chilean-American family to support them, Ella’s mom is working, and Ella has her group of friends to get her through.

She also has her blog, reviewing mostly books but the occasional movie. Like many of us, her blog is both her escape and her connection to a world greater than her personal calamities. Her favorite thing to write about is a retelling of Cinderella (the Cinder Chronicles), gathering a small but dedicated fan base. One such fan (screen name Cinder, of course) reaches out to her and they form a lasting friendship through instant messenger and blog comments. They are blissfully unaware of the identity of the other which is fine by both of them. Meeting up would be too weird, they decide. The friendship grows over several years, something most of us can get behind (in an era where a lot of my closest folks are internet-only buddies and also fellow bloggers and readers).

Unfortunately, there are some things that even books and blogs can’t fix. At just 18, Ella and her mother are driving to a girls weekend when things go horribly wrong. Ella wakes up weeks later, having been in a medically induced coma. having burn scars on most of her body, in desperate need of physical therapy, and down one mom. Her beloved mother who got her through the previous “worst event ever” (her dad leaving), has been killed in the car accident, leaving Ella with no one.

She is scooped up by her long-absent father and whisked away to Hollywood to live with her dad, supermodel step-mom, and yes, her evil stepsisters.

Ah, and fiction becomes reality.

And of course, there’s the other side of the equation. Turns out, Mysterious Screen Name Cinder is actually Teen Heartthrob, Brian Oliver. He’s the son of a major movie exec but his dad is known for showy blockbusters and Brian is known for swooning teen flicks and sleeping around. Both of the Oliver men want to move into more serious film making but Hollywood makes old patterns hard to kill. They both land on the script for a movie adaptation of Brian and Ella’s beloved Cinder Chronicles and think it will be the project that makes it big. If only they can both shed their respective reputations, that is.

Brian hasn’t heard from his best internet friend for over a year, fearing the very worst. Ella is afraid to reach out, knowing that her car accident has left her with some pretty gnarly scars and a lifetime of using a cane. But her fingers eventually find the courage to send him a  message and so our story really begins.

As both threads of this story wind their way through the Hollywood Hills, we can inevitably see where this is going.

But it’s not just the usual remake of Cinderella. Cinder & Ella has so much therapeutic nuance and family dynamic attention that it is far deeper than the usual attempt to remake this old story. I cried at the end, not just for the normal romantic fluff but that dedication to the harder parts of the book like love and loss and personal rediscovery.

NOW A WORD. AHEM. When I was reading it, the story seemed familiar.

Anyone remember Geekerella?

Yeah, so did I. I read that one first but it was apparently published years after this one. Now, Geekeralla seems like a super watered down version of Cinder & Ella and I’m kind of pissed I didn’t find this one first because it’s way better.

I also have some major feelings about just how similar the two stories are. That said, Cinder & Ella is far deeper and more nuanced and I’m really not sure why this one didn’t take off while the knock-off did.

Folks, as a writer and an artist, this kind of thing sucks. Like you absolutely must write your own stuff or what’s the point? I’m sure the stories are different enough without Poston getting into trouble but it just feels like Geekeralla was a nearly direct ripoff of this beautiful thing.

Ok, rant over. I loved Cinder & Ella and I highly recommend this one over any of the other Cinderella retellings. Ahem, especially Geekerella.

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