Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton

Release date: June 3, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 340
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Being seventeen during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dresses is even tougher.

Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dresses, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart, Johnny, stuck in the middle of battle, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.
Cinderella's Dress is such an interesting take on the Cinderella story that it's one I knew I needed to read as soon as I saw it. And it's got a lot going for it past that selling point: the time period, Polish culture, the cute romance (though calling it slow burn is an understatement, but understandable, I suppose), and Kate's interest in window displays. The only real problem, however, is that these elements are all introduced only to develop so slowly it's hard to keep your attention on the book until the point something actually happens with any of them.

It's 1944. The United States is finally part of the war, and rationing is in full swing. Kate works at a department store in New York City with her mother, and sometimes models--her mother's dream, not hers. Kate only wants to design the elaborate and breathtakingly beautiful window displays that go up overnight at the store. When her great aunt and uncle show up at their door, refugees from war-torn Poland, Kate's family takes them in. Soon her aunt is spinning stories of Cinderella, her famous dress, and that Kate's family is somehow descended from the Keeper of the Wardrobe, the woman entrusted to protect the princesses magical and precious gowns. But with the men in her life off to battle and her ambition to dress windows in full force, Kate worries little about these dresses and her aunt's stories--until the descendants of Cinderella's stepsisters appear and will stop at nothing to find those dresses, dresses Kate just happens to have in her possession.

And this all would have been wonderful had a big chunk of the novel been compressed, so I didn't have to read about so much time in which nothing was happening. Large chunks of time were actually skipped, with letters between Kate and her father, her brother, and Johnny showing that time had passed, but that only works to pass through the rest of the war itself. When the plot really kicks in, with, gosh, twenty percent of the novel left, it's interesting, but then that has to be rushed over because the book is already over three-hundred pages long!

But see, I was so interested in the dresses, in Elsie and Adalbert (Kate's great aunt and uncle) and their story, in the romance, in Kate's pursuit of securing a place in a male-controlled field, all of it. And maybe the problem is that there's so much packed into the book. We deal with World War II and the story of Cinderella's dresses, which really should be enough for one book, but there's also bits and pieces about the beginning of a real woman's movement, mentions of the monuments men, even the political climate in Poland. These are fun to see, but they distract from the story, and because they're not really fleshed out, I felt a little cheated to get the mentions but not a lot of substance behind them.

I don't know if I've made it clear that I really did enjoy Cinderella's Dress. To be clear, I did! The story is really interesting and creative, and I liked Kate's relationships with her family and her best friend Josie. I like the romance, though, like I said, slow burn, but you know it's there and Kate and Johnny's flirtation is really cute. I liked it, but it simply didn't live up to its potential. If you're interested, I'd definitely say give it a shot, just be warned that it took till about fifty percent for me really to get into the story--but it was worth it once I made it.

About the author:

SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novel Cinderella's Dress, out June 3, 2014 with Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella’s Dress she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows—it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.

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