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It’s been almost a year since eighteen-year-old Ella Rodriguez was in a car accident that left her crippled, scarred, and without a mother. After a very difficult recovery, she’s been uprooted across the country and forced into the custody of a father that abandoned her when she was a young child. If Ella wants to escape her father’s home and her awful new stepfamily, she must convince her doctors that she’s capable, both physically and emotionally, of living on her own. The problem is, she’s not ready yet. The only way she can think of to start healing is by reconnecting with the one person left in the world who’s ever meant anything to her—her anonymous Internet best friend, Cinder.Cinder & Ella is, simply put, sweet and cute. As someone who really can't resist a Cinderella retelling, I knew I'd read this as soon as I read the synopsis. I definitely wasn't disappointed!
Hollywood sensation Brian Oliver has a reputation for being trouble. There’s major buzz around his performance in his upcoming film The Druid Prince, but his management team says he won’t make the transition from teen heartthrob to serious A-list actor unless he can prove he’s left his wild days behind and become a mature adult. In order to douse the flames on Brian’s bad-boy reputation, his management stages a fake engagement for him to his co-star Kaylee. Brian isn’t thrilled with the arrangement—or his fake fiancée—but decides he’ll suffer through it if it means he’ll get an Oscar nomination. Then a surprise email from an old Internet friend changes everything.
What makes Cinder & Ella stand out from any number of Cinderella retellings, especially one involving a normal girl and a famous guy (though, honestly, I would've enjoyed it anyway--I still watch ALL the A Cinderella Story movie every time I see they're on tv...), is that there is so much more nuance both to the characters and their situations and in Ella and Brian's relationship. Kelly Oram makes Ella's home life one that's not ideal, but it's also one in which not all of the fault lies on the "evil" stepmother and sisters.
There's a lot more going on than in the fairy tale basis, which I loved--especially when it came to Ella and Brian's relationship. It's founded solely through their chats online and over a long period of time. By the time the novel even starts, the two have been talking for a long time (years, I want to say!). They've bonded over their differing opinions on movies, mostly, and their abiding love for The Druid Prince. Their banter back and forth is fun and comfortable. It's a relationship you can tell has been built up, and it's so refreshing.
And can I talk about Ella for a second? She's just awesome, honestly. She's very clearly flawed, and like most of us, it takes someone pointing it out for her to notice, but she also works to make herself better. She's been through a lot and had some bad moments, yet she finds the strength to move forward, scarred and heartbroken. Ella doesn't put up with crap from people, instead she forges her way onward and manages to find a tight-knit support system. And hey, she reads!
Cinder & Ella is the first book I've read from Kelly Oram, but it certainly won't be the last. While, sure, it wasn't perfect, I found myself laughing out loud, tearing up, and grinning like at idiot at different points throughout the story--and isn't that enough?
Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen—a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat named Mr. Darcy.