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“I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in the armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving,” Sophia. –Cinderella is Dead    

Cinderella is Dead

by Kalynn Bayron
AR Test, LGBTQ, Strong Female Character


At A Glance
Interest Level

 13+  
Entertainment
Score
Reading Level
4.7
Number of Pages
400

King Manford rules Lille as a tyrant. He ensures women have no rights and are completely under the power of men. Cinderella has been dead for two hundred years and history has twisted her story to make it seem as though she found true love at the ball with Prince Charming. King Manford uses this story to ensure that each 16-year-old girl attends an annual ball where men choose a woman to wed. Many girls grow up looking forward to this day, where they think they will get their chance to find their own Prince Charming.

But sixteen-year-old Sophia is not like other girls. She has always rebelled against the rules and does not have faith in the story of Cinderella. Most importantly, Sophia does not want to marry a man. Instead, Sophia desires to run away with her best friend Erin. Since homosexual relationships are banned under King Manford’s rule, Sophia and a gay man, Luke, attempt to partner up at the ball. But the king discovers their plan, resulting in devastating repercussions for Luke.

Sophia narrowly escapes and goes on an adventure to take down King Manford. Along her journey, she meets and falls for Constance, the last living descendant of Cinderella’s family. Together they discover the fairy godmother, who is actually an evil witch. They also uncover the lies that have been spread about Cinderella, King Manford, and the rules that hold everyone in this patriarchal hierarchy.

Bayron twists a beloved fairytale into an empowering story where women get to decide their own fate and do not need to wait for their Prince Charming to come and save them. Cinderella is Dead is both captivating and moving as Sophia witnesses a seemingly picture-perfect fairytale crumble around her. In order to create a society where girls have the same freedoms as men, Constance says, “we need to burn the whole thing to the ground and start over. The entire system, the ideals that have been woven into society. It all has to go.”

Sophia is a powerful LGBTQ+ woman of color who works to overthrow a corrupt system. Sophia empowers all readers who have been pushed aside by society, making this novel a must-read for any queer teenager. Bayron’s story exemplifies how standing up for yourself and refusing to be shoved aside can truly benefit all people. Sophia’s adventure touches on many difficult subjects such as domestic violence and homophobia. However, these challenges are told in a sensitive way that will help introduce high school readers to the real difficulties and challenges of the world. Sophia is a powerful and personable character that readers will love, root for, and ultimately feel her pain as she attempts to create a just world.

Sexual Content

  • Sophia is upset the carriage ride to the ball would be the last time she would see Erin. Sophia reminisces, thinking that Erin was “the first and only person I’ve ever kissed.”
  • Sophia is harassed by an old man at the ball who “leans in and presses his lips to mine. I try to pull away, but he holds me close. He smells like wine and sweat, and all I want to do is get away from him.” Sophia fought him back as she “steps back and brings her knee up as hard as she can between his legs.” This causes an uproar, allowing Sophia the opportunity to escape.
  • Sophia and Constance share an intimate moment that Sophia describes. “Before I have a chance to overthink it, I press my lips to hers. Her hands move to my neck and face. A surge of warmth rushes over me as she pressed herself against me. There is an urgency in her kiss, like she’s trying to prove to me how much she cares, and I yield to her, unconditionally.”
  • Constance embraces Sophia when she returns from a trip. “Constance presses her lips against mine as she winds her arms around my neck.”
  • When she has to go to the winter cotillion, Sophia says goodbye to Constance. “I lean forward and kiss her, wrapping my arms around her, breathing her in and hoping this isn’t the last time.”
  • Sophia and Constance embrace. “Tears come again, but she wipes them away with the tip of her fingers, kissing my hand and pulling me close.”

Violence

  • Morris, Luke’s schoolmate, makes fun of Luke for being gay, which angers Luke. “Luke’s fist connected with Morris’s right cheek, sending spittle and at least two teeth flying.”
  • At the annual ball, the guards detain Luke. Sophia sees Luke getting “punched in the ribs and doubling over.”
  • A guard makes fun of Sophia’s friend, saying, “I would have offed myself, too, with a face like that.”
  • The local seamstress is falsely accused of helping Sophia escape at the annual ball. She is publicly executed and her head is cut off with an ax. Sophia saw “the seamstress’ head roll into the dirt.”
  • A local man harasses Constance and Sophia which leads to Constance fighting him. “Constance raises her knife and brings the hilt down on top of the man’s head, sending a loud crack! echoing through the alley. He falls face-first onto the ground.”
  • When Sophia plans to murder the king, she says, “I’m going to have to let him get close to me, so I can put a dagger in his neck.”
  • At the cotillion, a man attempts to flirt with Sophia, and a guard attacks him as a result. “As I turn, a guard sweeps in and strikes him on the top of the head with the hilt of his sword. The man collapsed into a heap.”
  • Sophia tries to assassinate King Manford. “In one quick move I plunge the dagger into his neck. I twist the blade the way Constance showed me. He blinks. Standing upright, he staggers, clutching his throat. I jump back, pulling the blade out. I smile at him. I’ve done it. I’ve ended him. Constance said that if I killed him, he would probably collapse into a heap. King Manford doesn’t move. She told me blood would rush from the wound. He doesn’t bleed.” As King Manford is no longer human, there is simply a gaping hole in his neck, but it did not cause him any pain as the hole slowly closed itself.
  • After Sophia’s attempt to kill King Manford, the guards restrain her. “Someone yanks my arm so hard it feels like my shoulder might come out of its socket.”
  • Sophia escapes her cell by attacking a guard. The guard “blinks, confused, as I bring the candlestick down with all the strength I can muster. It impacts his head with a sickening thud, and he falls into a pile, his knees and elbows jutting out in an unnatural way.”
  • Sophia continues attacking guards with her candlestick as she helps others escape the prison. The other prisoners cheer her on saying, “Hit him again!”
  • Amina, the fairy godmother, betrays Sophia and Constance. Constance stabs Amina for her betrayal. “The tip of Constance’s dagger sticks out of Amina’s chest as Constance grips the hilt behind Amina’s right shoulder.”
  • Sophia realizes King Manford is kept alive through magic and sees a bright core in him where the magic resides. She stabs the bright, magical center. “Bright, hot, and crimson like a heatless flame, the light in his chest erupts out of his mouth and engulfs the king’s entire head as he rears back, his hands clutching wildly at the air. A sound escapes his throat, the cries of a dying animal. What is left of his skin begins to shrivel and crack like burned paper.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Sophia considers Helen, a local potion maker, to be a hoax. Sophia thought, “Her potions were probably watered-down barley wine.”
  • Sophia describes the Bicentennial Celebration where every night of the week, “before curfew, people crowd the square to make music and drink.”
  • As Sophia and Erin ride to the annual ball, Erin speculates, “I hear they have tables and tables of food and wine.”
  • Amina, the fairy godmother, frequently smokes from a pipe. “She puffs away on her pipe, a wreath of earthy-smelling smoke encircling her head.”
  • The evil king, King Manford, meets Sophia at the cotillion. Sophia describes him. “From his smell, a mixture of wine and smoke, to the predatory look in his eyes, everything about him repels me.”
  • Amina describes the guilt she felt for betraying Cinderella, Sophia, and Constance. Amina felt “a twinge of guilt about Cinderella, but it’s nothing that can’t be stifled with a full pipe and a stiff drink.”

Language

  • Damn is used occasionally. For example, Sophia’s mother is frustrated with Sophia’s behavior and says she wishes Sophia “would sit down and stop trying to get herself arrested like some damned fool.”
  • Shit is used a couple of times. When Luke sees Morris, his classmate who always bullies him, he says “shit.”

Supernatural

  • Sophia walks past Helen’s Wonderments and thinks about the different potions Helen claims to brew up. The sign outside Helen’s store reads, “Find a Suitor, Banish an Enemy, Love Everlasting.”
  • Amina, the fairy godmother, explains how she learned magic. “All my life I’ve practiced magic. My mother raised me in the craft, taught me from the time I was young.”
  • Amina, Constance, and Sophia plan to use necromancy to raise Cinderella from the dead so Cinderella can help fight the king. Constance explains necromancy as, “It’s when you communicate with the dead.” Amina corrects Constance by explaining, “You have to call the spirit back to communicate with them.”
  • In order to see the future, Amina, Constance, and Sophia complete a divination ritual. In Sophia’s vision she sees Cinderella and the king. Then, the king’s “face transforms into something horrid and rotting – something dead. A ball of white-hot light erupts between us, pulling at the center of my chest. I cry out.”
  • Amina uses a spell to make the guards sleep. Amina describes the spell as “a little sleeping dust to send them to dreamland. . . It brings nightmares. . . The kind you never forget. The kind that haunt you even in your waking hours.”
  • Amina describes a special stone that allows the holder to see into the future. Amina explains, “An alternative to the kind of divination we used at the pond. An enchanted stone, polished up like a mirror. It can be used to see all sorts of things – the future, the present – but they are exceedingly rare.”
  • Amina raises Cinderella from the dead. Sophia describes the emotions of seeing Cinderella as, “A literal ghost is speaking to us, it takes everything I have not to give in to the little voice in my head that is screaming at me to run.”
  • Amina uses magic to create a gown for Sophia. Sophia describes the experience. “The same strange luminescence that clings to it clings to me. I hold my breath as a dress of shimmering silver materializes around me.”
  • Sophia realizes how the king has stayed alive for hundreds of years. When Sophia is imprisoned, the girl in the cell next to her explains, “He siphons the life from your very soul. There is a light, a pull, and whatever he takes from you, he uses to make himself young, to live as long as he so chooses.”
  • Sophia finds Cinderella’s journal which also explains how King Manford used magic to stay alive. Cinderella had written, “A channel opened between us, a connection. I could see right into his blackened heart. Something invisible, something unnatural, surrounds the source of the light. And now I know that there is no hope for me. Or for anyone.”
  • King Manford attempts to draw the life out of Sophia. Sophia describes the experience saying, “I’m dying. I feel the life being pulled out of me in long, rasping draws. A fire ignites in my chest, burning away any feelings of hope or love or happiness. Something tugs hard at my waist, and suddenly I’m sliding backward across the ballroom floor.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Paige Smith

 

 

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“I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in the armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving,” Sophia. –Cinderella is Dead    

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