Book Review: Just Ella

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Just Ella
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

This story begins at the end of Cinderella’s fairy tale, when Ella is engaged to marry Prince Charming. With the wedding only two months away, Ella is forced to learn restrictive palace protocol, sit through endless embroidery lessons, and learn the boring history of the royal family. Her meetings with the Prince are awkward and silent, and her only friends are the poor serving child, Mary, and the philosophy tutor, Jed. Ella begins to wonder if she really loves the Prince at all, and if she can tolerate the confinement of the palace for the rest of her life.

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! (I really hate the cover art, and made the mistake of judging the book by its cover.) I read it all in one sitting, because I could not put it down.

Ella is fiery and energetic. She longs to do courageous deeds and have close relationships with people, but the royal protocol is so restrictive that no one can have a meaningful conversation, much less actually connect with anyone or do anything of real consequence. I loved the way she beat her wings against those cage bars and finally escaped to build her own life.
This book goes into some deep themes as Ella discovers what she truly wants out of life. She ponders what love really is and how it should feel when it is true. She contemplates what gives life meaning and what kind of legacy she wants to leave. Jed is a thinker with big ideas, but doesn’t have the gumption to take action until Ella inspires him with her intense energy. They both have really excellent character development.

My favorite parts of the book where when Ella sassed back to people in authority over her. Oooh, it was so good! I could perfectly imagine her with her hand on her hip, wagging her head at some fancy madame, and insisting that she was not going to wear a corset. Haha!

There were only a few things that annoyed me. First, idioms and sayings that are decidedly modern which don’t belong in an obviously old-timey world where people wear corsets. It bothers me when the world is inconsistent.

Secondly, there are a weirdly high amount of mentions of body functions, poop, and urine, and animal manure. I mean, at one place it was important to the plot, but most of the time, I didn’t need to know all that.

There is also a mention of a man who raped several women. He threatens Ella and she finds out later that he was sentenced and executed for rape. It’s barely mentioned in the story and there are no details, but still… not something for young readers to be reading about. It also seemed unnecessary to the story. Why include it when it wasn’t really important to the story, and adds a bad tone to the book?

I really enjoyed this book, but those few things annoyed me; not enough to ruin the story for me, but enough for me to take my rating down a star. It would have been a 4 star book without those things.

One thought on “Book Review: Just Ella

  1. Great review. I agree, I almost didn’t read your review just because I hated the cover.
    Sounds like I would feel the same way about the book. I hate an author to rely on crude language. It can taint your feelings toward the whole book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s