Elevate Difference

The Cinderella Society

Jess Parker is the new kid and her sophomore year stunk. She was treated as an outsider and Lexy Steele was (and still is) determined to make her life a nightmare in order to get back at Jess for taking Lexy's cheerleading spot. Meanwhile, Jess is looking forward to spending the summer before her junior year hiding from Lexy, working, volunteering and going to cheer camp. Maybe just maybe, the other cheerleaders will finally accept her. However, her summer plans change when she receives an invitation to attend a meeting for a secret sisterhood, The Cinderella Society.

The Cindys are not just about makeovers, they want to do good deeds, change the world and make every girl feel confident. Jess is thrilled to be part of the group, but she still has to deal with Lexy who leads the Wickeds. The Wickeds are intent on maintaining their popularity at any cost. They want other students to feel inferior to them. It's the never ending battle of good versus evil, high school style.

At times this book can read too much like a self-help manual. The message of girl power is very strong throughout the novel and this can be both a good and a bad thing. The story and message can seem cheesy or heavy handed, but at the same time, it's a message that we don't hear often and girls need to hear it constantly. It's very much about boosting your self esteem and it's what's on the inside that counts. I was disappointed that there was the cliché of the cheerleader falling in love with the football player but at least the main character realizes it. (“Besides I was practically a walking, talking stereotype: the cheerleader drooling over the quarterback. Except I wasn't popular. At least it wasn't a total cliché.”)

Furthermore, I didn't like how hi-tech the Cindys headquarters was. The technology made the story flow better, but it also lessened the credibility of the story. I think the story could have been even more appealing if the Cindys weren’t handed everything. They had access to the most exclusive hair salons and they received free makeup, etiquette and fashion lessons. Most girls would love those opportunities, but they are expensive and rare.

Normally I don't read much chick lit but this book sounded very unique and I wanted to give it a try. When I listed it as a book for the Chick Lit Challenge, I stated that I wasn't sure if I would review because I didn't know if there were any POC in it, and I don’t review books on my blog if there are no people of color in it. Ms. Cassidy commented that she was glad I was reading her book for the challenge and that it was multicultural. I was skeptical, what if our definitions of multicultural were different and she only had the token black friend? Well I was very wrong and in this case I loved being proven wrong. One of the co-captains, Kyra, is half Cuban; other members of the Cindys are Indian and African American.

The cultural background of the characters should not be a big deal, as Ms. Cassidy could have easily not mentioned the cultural background of her characters by simply stating that the Cinderella Society accepts everyone. But I think that people of color like myself would have assumed that everyone was white (it's what we've sadly become used to), so I was ecstatic that the various cultures were mentioned.

The Cinderella Society is a fun and inspiring novel that is quite innovative. It is mindful of Ms Cassidy to not exclude the Reggies (regular kids) from the Cindys vs. Wickeds. The Wickeds are not 100% bad, the Cindys not 100% good while the Reggies have the potential to be more powerful than both groups. This keeps the book from seeming too elitist or unrealistic. It is, to me, feminist and fun (how often do those two words go together in today's society?).

I look forward to learning more about the Wickeds, discovering what Jess sees in her love interest Ryan, and the ultimate battle between good and evil—high school style. I finished this book wanting to be a Cindy and that's the greatest power this book has. I'm convinced that it will inspire girls regardless of cultural or economic background to be a Cindy, too. As cheesy as it sounds this book does send the message that all girls can be Cindys.

Written by: Ari Reading in Color, October 2nd 2010