Goodreads: Cinderella Stays Late
Series: Grimmtastic Girls #1
Cinderella dreamed of attending Grimm Academy, an elite boarding school that previously her father could not afford–but she never imagined she would have to attend with her stepsisters. The Steps always try to make Cinda look bad in front of her friends and now they’re trying to sabotage the new prince’s ball. Can Cinda, along with Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, save the ball from disaster before the stroke of midnight?
Cinderella Stays Late certainly seems not to be a wholly original idea–other books before have mashed up fairytales and even inserted them into a boarding school setting. However, the attempt of the Ever After High series to mix cutesy and glitter and fairytale puns to appeal to a stereotypical idea of a tween audience comes across as more cheesy than winkingly funny, and sometimes even as slightly condescending. The Grimmtastic Girls, meanwhile, manages to take these same elements, even the puns and the emphasis on sparkles and fashion, and to make them seem natural in its world, rather than a heavy-handed marketing ploy. Perhaps the difference lies in Holub’s and Williams’s ability to know how to mix fluff with real depth; though frills and glitter abound, they never overshadow the characters or the plot. The result is an engaging tale with an arguably wider appeal–after all, readers can really care about these characters, rather than just about their clothes.
Though the Grimmtastic Girls series possesses an overarching plot, as well as a mini threat to be faced in each book, the characters really drive the story. Holub and Williams take well-known fairy tales and utterly transform them, beginning by depicting heroines such as Cinderella and Red Riding Hood as pre-teen girls with typical pre-teen problems–first day of school anxiety; friendship troubles; insecurity about their appearances or about fitting in; and, of course, crushes. The girls may live in a fantasy world, but they feel like they could be students in ours. Even fairy tale elements such as the cruelty of Cinderella’s stepsisters point to contemporary issues to which readers can relate, such as bullying or abuse.
The cover recommends Cinderella Stays Up Late as a book for fourth graders, but the sensitively-drawn characters as well as the engaging plot will hold appeal for readers of all ages. Not for a long time have I enjoyed a fairy tale retelling this much and I cannot wait to read the sequels.