Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Narration
  • The Story
Stepsister Book Cover Stepsister
Jennifer Donnelly
Young Adult & Teen
Scholastic Press (May 14, 2019)

An instant New York Times bestseller! A Seventeen Best of the Year Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal A YALSA pick Isabelle should be blissfully happy-she's about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn't the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince's heart. She's the ugly stepsister who cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella's shoe . . . which is now filling with blood. Isabelle tried to fit in. She cut away pieces of herself in order to become pretty. Sweet. More like Cinderella. But that only made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Now she has a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl. Evoking the darker, original version of the Cinderella story, Stepsister shows us that ugly is in the eye of the beholder, and uses Jennifer Donnelly's trademark wit and wisdom to send an overlooked character on a journey toward empowerment, redemption . . . and a new definition of beauty.

I was warned in the synopsis that Isabelle, an ugly stepsister of Ella, would cut off her toes in an attempt to fit a glass slipper. I’ve heard that this occurs in the original “Cinderella” tale, but this was my first time reading a Cinderella retelling. Cutting off your own toes takes quite a bit of desperation. Walking with a mutilated foot in a glass slipper would take even more fierce determination. We know how this ends. Cinderella is found and reunited with the prince. Thus, we embark on Isabelle’s journey to find redemption, and self worth.

It’s quite conflicting to be angry at Isabelle while also wanting her to find happiness.

It’s true that both stepsisters were terrible to Ella. They regarded her as beneath them, and forced her into service. What is so surprising is the slow journey we take to become fans of both Isabelle and Octavia. Jennifer Donnelly writes of conflicted young women trying desperately to be the image of what high society tells them to be. While we are often disappointed in Isabelle’s mistakes, her community is so cruel to her that you can’t help but want to defend her. There are plenty of moments that I felt an urge to talk-back to some awful characters. Thankfully her sister Octavia tends to speak up for her.

Fate is an evil wench!

While Isabelle’s life unfolds we meet “Fate”, an old crone who literally maps out people’s entire lives. She is determined to keep Isabelle on her doomed path to an impending death. Chance is aptly named for what he represents, a chance. He believes Isabelle could be a better person, and save the world, if she was just given that chance. Ultimately these too enter into their own battle to guide and misguide Isabelle. Each time Fate engaged vicious moves to hinder Isabelle, I was devastated. The majority of my time listening to this book was in my car. Believe me when I say I was clenching my steering wheel with my heart racing in my chest.

Stepsister is a “must-listen” book!

Jayne Entwistle is a phenomenal narrator. She truly captured the strong and wizened voice you’d expect to tell you of such a classic tale. Entwistle varied her voice for each character in a way that became easy to follow. Even at 1.8x speed, which I managed to reach after getting accustomed to her tones. If audiobooks aren’t your thing, definitely give Stepsister a read. You will not be disappointed.

If you choose to buy Stepsister from the included affiliate links, I may receive compensation from Amazon. I wouldn’t know, it hasn’t happened yet. 🤷🏽‍♀️