Cinderella is Dead is pitched as Queer Black girls take over the patriarchy – and it pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a fun, quick read – the sort of book I’m so glad today’s teenagers get to grow up with. The plot is mostly predictable, the twists standard young adult fantasy fare, but the fierce sapphic women are delightful enough to read about to make this a worthy addition to the genre.
The book follows Sophia – unapologetically herself, but born into a world where that person isn’t accepted. In her world, men rule the roost. Women are required to attend once-yearly Balls – in homage to the original Ball where Cinderella found her Prince Charming – where they will be selected by a husband. If a woman fails to be chosen, she is cast out. There is no space for women who think for themselves – let alone women who happen to fall in love with other women. Sophia does both, and she can’t understand why no-one else seems to be fighting for change.
I love Sophia. Plenty of teenagers will empathise with her rage at the world and its injustices, and her determination to fight against it – even when everyone else has given up because of the seemingly insurmountable odds. Sophia is feisty and reckless, but also beautifully caring and human. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends – even when they can’t see it – and sticks fast to her principles even when they get her in trouble. She isn’t unflawed – her practical skills are lacking (which leads to a brilliant scene between her and Constance about making bread, my favourite part of the book) and she trusts incredibly quickly – but her heart is always in the right place.
Constance is the badass warrior woman all girls want to be. Need to make a bomb? She’s your girl. Want to know how to kill a man? She’s got that down. I actually wish we got more of her backstory because her upbringing sounds incredible but very little of her past is revealed. Her relationship with Sophia was delightful – perfectly paced and believable, which is something of a rarity in young adult romance. I was rooting for them the entire time.
Overall, this is an excellent young adult fantasy. The twists might not surprise you, but it’s still fun with characters you want to root for. Recommended for any teenager and any young adult fantasy fan – especially those who need more sapphic characters in their lives.
Published by Bloomsbury
Paperback: 6 August 2020