Saturday, February 23, 2013

REVIEW: "The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back" by Sariah Wilson

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back
The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson

For Ages 13+
Young Adult -- Contemporary
Fire & Ice Books -- August 5, 2012
Ebook, 194 pages
Bought from Amazon

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.  Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school. And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

My stepsister Ella was ruining my life.

Cinderella has always been one of my favorite fairy tales so I am always on the lookout for interesting retellings of it.  I stumbled across The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back a few weeks ago when I saw an ad about it being free (temporarily) on Amazon.  Now, I am not one to turn my nose up at free books so I hopped on over there to buy it.  And I am so glad I did!  This was a real hidden jewel for me and I definitely recommend it to fans of sweet YA contemporaries with a fairy tale flair.

This book features a self-proclaimed "ugly stepsister" who happens to be an teenaged artist with an obsession with 1980s pop culture.  Matilda Lowe "Mattie" is a funny and poignant heroine who grabbed my heart from the beginning and had me rooting for her throughout the story.  Because Mattie is not ugly (physically or emotionally), she is just different especially when you compare her to her stepsister, Ella, the blonde good girl she lives with.

The main focus of this story is Mattie's journey from high school outcast to confident young woman who finally appreciates everything that makes her special. She does this in a variety of ways such as running for class president and standing up to her overly critical mother.  The most interesting part of her journey was the presidential race because she is going up against the most popular boy in school, Jake, whom she has had a crush on for years.

Jake Kingston was a difficult character to get a handle on especially at the beginning.  He had some real jerk moments so I wasn't sure if Sariah Wilson would be able to reform him.  But, he began to grow on me and the slow development of his relationship with Mattie was really sweet to read..  A main theme of this story was looking beyond a person's appearance and initial actions to see the true personality within and it is showcased in the handling of Jake. 

Another character that benefited from the above theme was Mattie's stepsister, Ella.  At first glance, she appeared to be the typical blonde princess who was just too perfect to be real.  And, the funny thing is, Ella really is a super nice girl who also has some quirks and vulnerabilities that are hinted at though never blatantly discussed.  I do know that Ms. Wilson plans on writing a sequel that focuses on Ella and I am excited to learn more about her.

In conclusion, The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back was a great example of finding a diamond in the rough when it comes to independent books.  It was a sweet and entertaining tale with an admirable heroine and some very funny pop culture references that any reluctant, or non-reluctant reader, could appreciate.

"Most artists weren't famous until they died (mostly because once they'd died they couldn't create any more art so it would make it more valuable)." [pg. 6]



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