Goodreads: Cinderella Stays Late
Series: Grimmtastic Girls #1
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
The authors of the hit Goddess Girls series put a fun and girly twist on another super-popular theme: fairy tales!
Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia…
A Grimmtastic girl named Cinderella is starting her first week at Grimm Academy on the wrong foot. Cinda’s totally evil stepsisters are out to make her life miserable. The Steps tease Cinda, give her terrible advice about life at the academy, and even make her look bad in front of her new friends, Red, Snow, and Rapunzel! But when Cinda overhears the Steps plotting a villainous deed that could ruin Prince Awesome’s ball, Cinda, her new friends, and a pair of magical glass slippers have to stop them–before the last stroke of midnight!
Cinderella Stays Late is a fabulous adventure story that draws readers into a world of fashion and friendship. Readers follow protagonist Cinda through her first days at Grimm Academy, where fairy tale characters can learn everything from etiquette to magic. Cinda, however, will find her greatest lesson is learning to be confident and be herself. Her nasty stepsisters may attend Grimm Academy with her, but they no longer have to control her life!
Cinda’s personal story is one of growth, but the overarching plot is a mystery/adventure. There are tons of girly moments as Cinda and her friends prepare for an approaching ball, but problems bigger than what shoes best match what dress may prevent them all from going! The school is missing a magical artifact, and Cinda thinks she just might know where to find it. Although readers do get some resolution for this plot, a lot is left open-ended. Cinderella Stays Late is in many ways the start of a story, rather than a self-contained one. Readers will have to continue with the series to get answers.
Cinda’s classic story—attending a ball, meeting a prince, losing a shoe—is skillfully woven into all this action. Holub and Williams win big with their decision to have Cinda’s tale play out at Grimm Academy itself, as it can be difficult to make books where fairy tale characters all attend school together make sense. (See my previous review of Shannon Hale’s The Storybook of Legends for more on this.) One question the authors do not address: How can the characters know they are story characters—but not know what their stories are? This question is nagging, but is ultimately a minor issue and it does not hinder the flow of the plot in any way.
Though the book draws on fairy tales, the authors ensure their retelling is up-to-date and relatable to today’s girls with the inclusion of “fairy tale slang.” Characters, for example, might exclaim, “That’s so Grimm!” to express that something is amazing. This playful language is never cheesy and succeeds in making the book sound just a touch modern, even though the characters jokingly mention that it will always be the Middle Ages in Grimmlandia.
Cinderella Stays Late is everything a reader could want in a middle-grade retold fairy tale. It keeps the spirit of the original story while putting a new, contemporary spin on the characters and plot. At times funny, thoughtful, and surprising, it will keep readers turning pages to see what Cinda and her friends get up to next. Recommended for fans of E. D. Baker, Shannon Hale, and Sarah Mlynowski.