Cinderella Is Dead (Kalynn Bayron)

Cinderella Is Dead is a novel by Kalynn Bayron.
Finished on: 26.7.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia and misogyny

Cinderella died 200 years ago, but her legacy lives on: everybody has to learn her story, and all girls have to give everything at the annual ball to find a husband, just like Cinderella did back then. If they don’t find a husband by their third ball, they are forfeit. Sophie dreads her first ball, and not just because of the pressure that comes with it. She doesn’t actually want a husband, she’d much rather escape with her girlfriend Erin. But escape is easier said than done in a society that affords women no rights.

I love fairy tale retellings, and if you make them queer and add people of color, I’m even more here for it. So, Cinderella Is Dead was right up my alley – and it did not disappoint. I enjoyed it a lot.

The book cover showing a young Black girl in a blue ballgown. The dress is torn and dirty, her face scratched and bloody.

Cinderella Is Dead builds from an excellent idea – taking into account the oppressive nature that narratives can have, it sees Cinderella’s happy ending as a catastrophe when it is used to give women only one option of how to live their lives. And while her focus is definitely on what it does to (queer) girls, she only touches on the fact that not all ment fit into the Prince Charming/Cinderella mold either. And that poverty is another factor in how well you can navigate a system that is made to limit you.

The way she re-thinks the famous fairy tale is really creative and also shows that history is written by the winners – and that things can be made to seem one way when they were very different in reality. I liked how Bayron plays with this both within the story, and with the reader’s knowledge of the fairy tale.

Sophia was a very likeable heroine, although there was maybe a tad too much “I’ve never met anybody like you” stuff with her. To be fair though, we actually do rarely get a Black girl protagonist who is generally thought to be very beautiful. So there is some truth to “nobody like her”. Her romance with Constance was a bit quick overall, especially since her break-up with Erin was literally only hours before she meets Constance.

Generally, the ending was maybe a tad too tidy, too reliant on coincidences, but I’m very willing to forgive this for a book that gives me queer girls smashing the patriarchy. We definitely need a lot of those stories, and Cinderella Is Dead does well with it.

Summarizing: a really good read.

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