When I first heard about Cinderella Is Dead, it moved to the top of my TBR. I immediately requested it on NetGalley and was so excited when I was sent a copy. This book is everything I loved in YA fiction as a teenager: women, magic, and badassery. If you’re looking for a queer dystopian fractured fairy tale about dismantling the patriarchy, then this book is for you. Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron is a subversive, feminist twist on the Cinderella story we all know.

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The summary, from Amazon:

“Wholly original and captivating.” – Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times bestselling author of A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Girls team up to overthrow the kingdom in this unique and powerful retelling of Cinderella from a stunning new voice that’s perfect for fans of A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

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 step sisters. 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.

Buy Cinderella Is Dead here.

While the cover is stunning, the story itself is even more fabulous. Sophia attends her first ball at the age of sixteen. The women in her kingdom grow up reading the story of Cinderella, with the expectation that they strive to be like her. Young women are sent to the palace each year to attend and for a man to choose to become engaged to them. They have three chances, and then are considered forfeit, with a mysterious fate in a workhouse. Sophia, however, does not want to marry. She sees that the women in her kingdom are treated horribly by so many men, even if the men directly in her life have not abused their wives and children. Also, Sophia does not want to marry a man. She is attracted to women, and in love with her best friend Erin. Her family and friends know this, but even Erin thinks it’s safer to go with the status quo.

However, Sophia can’t do that. During her ball, she ends up running away. In the process, she meets Constance, a descendant of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. From Constance, Sophia learns the truth about Cinderella’s story. The version she grew up with is even more of a lie than she suspected. The two plan to take down the evil king that rules over the kingdom, so that no woman has to experience what Sophia and her loved ones have.

To be honest, I found the plot to be predictable, but I’m also an adult reading a YA novel. (Not that YA novels are predictable or juvenile – I love them!) It also is such a mirror for the way women are treated in reality and the white male patriarchy of the modern world. For centuries, anyone who is different has been beaten down. There are also many mirrors of the good men who benefit from the way the system currently works, and while they love the women in their lives, they do not always stand up for what is right. We also see the women who benefit from the patriarchy and disregard other women and their struggles, or turn a blind eye to their own suffering because they have been taught to for so long. Finally, in Constance and Sophia’s journey, we meet a mysterious witch with ties to Cinderella, a clear example of someone who has benefited from and even helped the “bad guys” only to relearn and become an ally. (Though without spoiling, there’s a twist there that did surprise me in the last few pages!)

Overall, this was a timely, subversive, feminist read that I absolutely adored. I highly recommend this 5 star book. My thanks to the author, Bloomsbury, and NetGalley for giving me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Cinderella Is DeadCinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this dark, dystopian, subversive, and feminist spin on Cinderella. While I found it to be predictable, I think that’s because it was such an allegory for the way things have been for so long. An excellent read, and it fits nicely with the national summer reading theme! Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for giving me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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