An Ugly Stepsister’s Beautiful Story of Self Discovery

Fate is an old woman dressed in black.
Chance is a charming young man with a gold earring.
Fate likes order.
Chance adores chaos.

They have made a wager – that Chance can alter the fate of an ordinary girl, Isabelle. An ordinary, ugly and unremarkable girl. And she just so happens to be the stepsister of a well known princess. When I first picked up Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly I thought it would be a cutesy retelling of Cinderella. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is a brilliantly told story about the value of women and their role in society.

A girl’s self worth begins with her mother. From the start Isabelle was told she wasn’t a pretty girl and that she’d never attract a husband. Her mother’s disapproval shaped and twisted her. She grew up bitter and hollow.

One day the Prince arrives looking for the girl who fits the glass slipper. Isabelle cuts her own toes off at the urging of her mother in order to fit into the shoe. The plan doesn’t work and beautiful Ella (Cinderella) rides away with the Prince instead. What happens to Isabelle afterwards is a hard journey of self discovery.

As Fate and Chance battle to control Isabelle’s destiny, she begins to discover her own heart. For a long time she let others define who she was before she had a chance to define herself. Girls are supposed to be pretty. Girls are supposed to be pleasing. Girls aren’t supposed to be ugly. Or educated. Or brave. No man wants a girl like that for a wife. But is that what Isabelle wants? To land a husband? To spend her days smiling and obeying?

“A pretty girl must please the world. But an ugly girl? She’s free to do as she pleases.”

This book is full of so many great lessons for women. Too often we let society dictate what beauty is and what role it should play in our lives. Isabelle’s journey is a grand lesson for all of us – the only person who can define your value is you.

Stepsister is available at WPL as a book, an eBook and an eAudiobook.

— Lesley L.