“Cinderelly, Cinderelly, Got No Time to Dilly-Dally.”

Lunar Chronicles 0.5 - Illustration by Goni Montes

Who knew?  Who knew I would be this deliciously into cyborgs and hover crafts?  The girl doesn’t even have a glass slipper, but instead a robotic foot, six years too small and yet, she’s just as Cinderella as the next gal waving from the Disney Castle.  I was literally number 179 on the request list for this book at the library.  Cinder is the story of Cinderella, in the future, when girls can have grease stained foreheads and lay under the hot bed of a truck mixing wires and nug luts in their tool boxes (that’s right, I know what a lug nut is).

It makes me laugh whenever a girlfriend brags about her boyfriend, or husband, being able to change her tie, or her oil.  How the grease stains on the boy’s hands stay all day and don’t wash off even after scrubbing with that expensive brand name soap that smells like Cucumber Melon.  How manly those grease stains seem to be.  How to spot a husband: look for the dirt under his fingernails, the dregs in his palm’s love line.

Flower Power

Anyway this isn’t about husband hunting, it’s about machinery, and women of power.  I loved this book as a young adult selection for many reasons.  The first is that it can be read and enjoyed by both young adult males and young adult females.  You’d think a refigured fairytale would turn boys off.  On the contrary, the machinary takes on the element of another character in this book. It’s just as important as the over all story telling as the characters are.   While the adventure, technology, and machinery is there for the typical boy this also gives teenage girls the ability to fantasize.  Today we clap-on girls who get stuck on the side of a highway and can change their own tire without having to flag down a conspicuous male or call their daddy, and Cinder is a mechanic.  She makes it acceptable for girls to lie under a truck on one of those sliding boards and pluck at the wires, configure the engine, change the oil.

Disney should take a lesson.  Not all girls have to get crowns, and floating dresses.  Not all girls have to get glass slippers in the end to make it worth it, or live happily ever after.  Some girls are perfectly happy being at the top of fantasy leagues, having happy ever after be a coffee and a good book, or the 53rd Superbowl Game between the Patriots and the Panthers rather than a man and a soft bed.

I love books that make these things okay, makes girls guts speak.  As in, sometimes we all get stuck into the crowd, afraid to be unique, afraid to like sports, or wake up and go to school with last nights mascara under our eyes, or no mascara because we’re naked badasses.  We’ll it is okay, we can be badass, naked, never own nail polish, or “healthy glow” blush.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (unrelated to Stephanie)

I think all this is honky dory for young adult book clubs.  The only problem I had with this as a young adult read was that it was entirely predictable, and there were too many foreshadows to not grasp what was coming.  This may come as a rant to you, but I hate predictable or easy young adult fiction.  Young adults are apt, insightful, and they’re all miniature spies.  If I can tell from page twenty what the plot twist is, every teen in the teen center can tell on page twenty what the plot twist is.  I hate when authors think that young adults are less savvy than their adult counterparts or that they won’t figure it out.  Just because you’ll be published under the “young adult” umbrella doesn’t mean that your book shouldn’t have the equivalent intelligent level of an “adult” read.

You find this with teachers sometimes, that their expectations are lower than what young adults can actually produce and due to that students are less likely to offer their high quality imaginations or insights.  We need to enter the world where we realize what young adults are capable of, and that our expectations for them as readers have turned into sick love triangles, and make-out sessions.  Young adults don’t need that in a book (as you’ll find with Cinder which is impeccable without one awkward tongue make-out scene).  What they need is books that light up the world around them.

While I am disappointed by the Hunger Games love triangle because it’s so predictable, it did tell young adults about politics, about American freedom, or their own countries power, their own governments power.  I was lucky enough to be born in America, but just this morning on BBC News Hour I heard that Pussy Riot (a band) was arrested and has been in jail for six weeks because they wrote a song to Mary asking to take Putin away.  They sang it in a famous religious space, yes, but in the US you could write a song about nearly anything and be safe in your home that very night.

In Hunger Games, teens are brought into a world where no one is safe, no life is one of freedom whether you’re in a rich district or a poor district.  It serves the same purpose as Animal Farm, showing young adults the world of politics, and current events.

Honky Dory isn’t the word I want to use for young adult fiction, I want to use words we use to describe adult fiction: gripping, captivating, enlightening, riveting, intelligent, emotional, “it changed my life.”  All of these words should be the same words we use for all sorts of fiction, every genre.  We don’t want to raise girls who only go from Sweet Valley High to the pink chick-lit section of a bookstore.  Nothing against chick-lit, I love the stuff when I’m sitting in a beach chair and letting the wind whiff my hair.  However, girls need to experience more than romance and dating as young adults and adults.  Boys need to experience more than war novels, adventure novels, and mystery novels.  It would do them some good to read Virginia Woolf, and Jane Austen. It would do girls some good to read Cormac McCarthy, and Mark Twain.

We need to raise a new generation that crosses stigmas, boundaries, and barriers.  We can only do this by promoting books that do this.  Bertolt Brecht says, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”  Literature has a duty to not only match the minds of young adults, but go beyond their high school lives, their lockers.  It’s duty is to take them to a new culture, experience, a new government, less freedom, less electricity, more life outside of the confines of their own existence.

Sherman Alexie said it best, “The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.”  Regardless if you’re a kid from a broken home, if you lived under a Seattle railway system because your mother was hooked on crank, if you were brought up with your car insurance paid and your college money in a savings.  Whether you have white picket fences, or chain linked fences, literature should shape your view of the world as something greater than these things.  It should empower you, change you, expand you as a human being.

Cinder does this in ways, and fails in others.  By fail, I mean fail my high expectations of what SOLID young adult books should do.  It’s a sweet read.  Read it if you need a break from the literary, or the mystery.  Read it if you need to go back to sixteen and breathe in the heat of hair straighteners, or the smell of soggy cafeteria hotdogs.  Let your young adults read it because it has less love story, and gives power to the unique.  Don’t expect it to tell you about the world, just expect it to be.  Read Sonya Hartnett, Markus Zusak, and Sherman Alexie to chisel your world.

33 thoughts on ““Cinderelly, Cinderelly, Got No Time to Dilly-Dally.”

  1. Frankie says:

    What a great post! I especially love this line: “We don’t want to raise girls who only go from Sweet Valley High to the pink chick-lit section of a bookstore.” I love a good chick lit too but it’s definitely not the only thing I read, and I never read Sweet Valley High, but I loved Nancy Drew. By the way Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is one of my all time favorite books. It’s so good!

    • Cassie says:

      Zusak wrote that as an almost perfect young adult book. It has just the right pitch to not be overwhelming but still be poignant. I loved it as well – glad I mentioned it now, here. :) You should read Sonya Hartnett. She’s also Australian and is an AWESOME young adult author.

      Sweet Valley High was wonderful when I was in middle school and so badly wanted to be in high school, not to mention be blonde. :) They’re making a movie about it so you should read a few so you’re inspired to see the movie. Diablo Cody is directing – yes yes yes yes yes yes.

      I loved Nancy Drew as well. I love that she’s still around as well.

      • Frankie says:

        Oh now, I have to read some Sweet Valley High, knowing that Diablo Cody is directing!

        I will also check out Sonya Hatnett. I completely agree about The Book Theif. At first, when I read it, I didn’t like that death is the narrator, but it turned into a wonderful, wonderful read. Hopefully it will be added to many highschool curriculums.

  2. Brittany Mendiola says:

    I have heard good and bad things about Cinder. The fact that it’s plot is predictable kinda turns it off for me. :/ And I do agree with the adults thinking that teens won’t notice predictable plot twists. I prefer to be surprised when I read a book. I want to be utterly shocked!

    But this was very eye-opening.

    • Cassie says:

      It’s definitely still a fun read and I didn’t put it down for the entire day. I even turned to the teen next to me (I was monitoring the computer lab in the teen center) and told them to stop typing so angrily so I could kindly read. Oops.

      I think you’d like what the book has to offer even if it is predictable. Maybe Marissa Meyer will learn from the reviews of Cinder and in 2013, the next book in the series will come out with shock-value. Hopefully. :) Thanks for visiting.

  3. Let's CUT the Crap! says:

    You say Cinder has less love story. I like that because I wonder if my 8-yr-old granddaughter can read it. She’s an avid reader . . .or should we wait until she’s a teen?

    She’s read a couple of the Princess books already.

    • Cassie says:

      I’m not sure. Maybe you should read it first to make sure. I think an eight year old could read this, there’s really no violence and not really any romance (a simple crush is there). I don’t want to say yes and then she doesn’t like it, or it’s too much for her, but I think it’s safe.

  4. Bea says:

    I don’t know what the “predictable plotline” is, but if the title is Cinder, then, of course, you should already know the plotline.
    Cinderella as told in all it’s forms, movies too, is one of my favorites, mainly because I know how it is going to end. I just love the movie with Drew Barrymore playing the Cinderella character. Yes, I knew how it would end, but I could watch it over and over. I believe it is called, “Ever After”.
    OK, I am a hopeless romantic, and all my favorite strory lines have happy endings. I can’t help myself, but I am glad that you venture out of the ordinary, searching for that different read, and look, now you have found one for me.

  5. haileyjw says:

    Cinder was an option for my book club this month, but we put it off for now in favour of The Time Travellers Wife. I’m glad to see it’s worth reading, but I do have a desire to be blown away by a novel. You know, as opposed to just experiencing predictable ones (such as Water For Elephants). Great post!

  6. suth2 says:

    A fantastic post on what is suitable for young adult readers. I love reading about females in roles you would not normally expect to find them.
    Great to see you recommend Australian authors. Zuzak was the author that I gave to reluctant male readers in high school and he hooked many of them.
    Sonia Hartnett is also fantastic although from an adult’s point of view she can be rather bleak.

    • Cassie says:

      She is bleak but that’s what I love about her. I think she’s so sick of being labeled young adult that she throws the whole truck in just to see if they will move her to adult. I love Australian writers. It was glorious living there because people actually read!

  7. readingafterbedtime says:

    I agree with the idea of not having YA books that are so predictable or mundane. I don’t necessarily think some authors do this on purpose. I think some authors simply don’t yet know how to weave masterful plots full of suspense, intrigue, and twists. This, in itself, is a sad state of affairs. But, then too, you are right when you suggest some teachers assume students are not up to the “challenging” task of digging into literature to find things out. As a teacher, I have been told not to teach certain books, because kids would never understand, or it would be too much work. I taught them anyways. If we expect kids to work harder, they will. I am so tired of making things “easier” for students because they don’t want to work hard. When did we get the idea that learning is supposed to be easy? If it is easy-you aren’t learning anything-you are going through the motions!

    Thanks for the post. It is a great reminder and I now may just read Cinder.

    • Cassie says:

      You could definitely be right about authors not yet mastering the craft. I think there were too many hints in this one and I don’t know if that is not mastering or just making sure you’re dropping clues. An editor should have caught the ease in my opinion.

      I love how you discuss teaching, absolutely love it. I’m happy to hear you still taught the books and that you’re challenging students. I think you’re wonderful.

  8. melissa says:

    Markus Zusak and John Green are literally the young adult writers that have my heart. Literally, nothing compares to them in my mind. I totally need to re-read Zusak’s work ASAP!

    You’re right about Cinder though. It’s by no means some genius piece of work but it’s SUCH a good series, I think it was great potential in the next books. That being said, it was my last sci-fi fantasy book for a while now. I need to take a break of all the YA dystopian and dig into some GOOD books. I don’t want to over do it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

    • Cassie says:

      I thought it was really good too and I definitely plan on reading the next few books, it just needed to eliminate the overly dropped clues.

      I always try to read a sci-fi fantasy book in between a bunch of literary reads so it never gets old. I definitely know what you mean though – what are you reading next?

      And thanks for visiting mine!

  9. annagergen says:

    “We need to raise a new generation that crosses stigmas, boundaries, and barriers. We can only do this by promoting books that do this.”

    ^^^ This is why your blog rocks.

    As an aspiring YA author, I totally agree with you about how wrong it is that some writers “dumb down” their work for teens. While tutoring in a middle school, I learned that we must expect of children what we expect of ourselves, perhaps expect even more. Otherwise, we’re telling the next generation that we don’t think they can live up to what we have accomplished, when really, for the health of the world, they need to be more than what we are. And you’re right, that message needs to be sent through good books.

    • Cassie says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I just finished writing your letter back yesterday and I was so excited to look up City Year and realize what a wonderful person you are, and what you’re creating as a teacher for the future. It’s lovely.

      My reaction to anything that happens in my life is “Go to the Literature” because I know I’ll find something to help me cope, understand, or change myself with. These things should be the same in YA literature.

      I can’t wait to hear in a letter what your YA book is about. :) I think I asked, I hope I did. :)

  10. ForTheLoveOfBooks says:

    I really enjoyed reading your review about Cinder. I loved how in depth it was and that you focused on the importance of young adults-especially girls experiencing life situations other than romance. I haven’t read a lot of YA books. I kind of have a problem when everything is about the romance aspect involving the primary characters. Its really nice to read books that focus less on the romance and more on the important issues.

    Cinder is on to-read list and I hope I can read it soon because I had another friend recommend it to me as well!

    Great review Cassie! And once again thanks for telling me about The Lover’s Dictionary Twitter account :). I love it!

    • Cassie says:

      It is true that you have to sift through the grudge of the books in the library. I always read a few pages before I put it in my pile and see what book titles speak to me from the spines, haha. :) Thank you for your kind words. Cinder is definitely an interesting and good work – plus you have probably four more years of books to read in the series and possibly a movie if they ever do that.

    • Cassie says:

      PS. The Lover’s Dictionary twitter account is like one of my favorites. When I see them in my newsfeed I get so excited, they’re always so good. :)

  11. jingersnaps says:

    I see this book at work all the time, and now I know that I need to pick it up. It’s hard sometimes to wade through all of the young adult paranormal romance and fantasy crappity-crap and get to something really good.

    • Cassie says:

      Definitely agree, it is hard to wade through – I think I commented on your comment on another comment. That sounds confusing. Cinder is a good read so definitely read it although it does have a few predictable parts. :) Then again, I should have expected it being the story of Cinderella retold and all.

  12. Jen Thompson says:

    First off love the title of this post, it made me chuckle lol. Secondly, this book sounds good, I love anything like a fairytale reinvention. Great review Cassie! :)

    • Cassie says:

      Haha I had to google the song the little mice sing! I wanted to watch the movie all over again when I found it. Do read it, it’s worth it, I think.

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