YA Novel Review
Ash by Malinda Lo
“It’s not the fairytale you remember.” This is the line on the front of the book and while this retelling of Cinderella shares so many lush glimpses of that fairytale, it transcends any telling of Cinderella I’ve ever read. Lo’s lush, somber writing feels like it has the weight of magic – you melt into the world she’s created as Ash, the Cinderella of this story, finds her way through that world. I chose this novel especially for February because it’s one of the most authentic love stories I’ve read in awhile – one where our heroine learns the value of true love rather than the illusion of fairytale love. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is that even while Ash explores her relationship with the Huntress, this novel is completely without agenda because this world she has built doesn’t flinch at the love between two women – it’s a non-issue in the world which just allows the reader to enjoy the love story without any sort of distraction. Whether this woman loves a man or loves another woman is secondary to the love between two people who are made for each other, are destined for each other, and that is the greatest love story of all.
In my high school classroom right now with my juniors and seniors, we’re investigating the question: What story keeps being told over and over? Further, we’re looking at this question in relation to Fairytale, Legend, Myth and Monster. My students have come up with some really dynamic projects around both old tales and new but one of the exercises we did in class was to create an imaginary place. So for this writing exercise, I’ll put the same question out to you that I put out to them last week:
If you were to create an imaginary place, what would it look like, smell like, sound like, feel like, taste like? Where would it be? What would you do there? Where would you live and who would live with you in this imaginary place?
Outside Reading School Project
Some of my students are reading old tales like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid but also Beowulf and Frankenstein and then they are exploring the way these tales get retold over time.
For this outside reading project, I would ask students to choose an old tale and to find a retelling just like the Cinderella and Ash retelling and I would ask them to read this tale and then write their own retelling of the fairytale or myth where they recast it through their own voice and ideas.