WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Type: Adventure, Fantasy,
Basic Plot: Ella was given a gift/curse by a fairy that made it whenever she was told to do something she had to obey, even if it meant hurting herself or others. Afraid of the dangers it will bring her life (and hating being bossed around as a whole), Ella decides to find the fairy and get the gift/curse taken away.
Plot: 4/5 A Creative Plot: The plot was very interesting and unique. Gail Carson Levine has always had creative ideas for fairy tale, and Ella Enchanted was pretty creative, though not her best book in my opinion. I loved the different languages Ms. Levine made for the different creatures and nationalities. They are all unique and follow particular rules and patterns. I also like how she gave different personality characteristics to the different races, such as giants being overly friendly and ogres having calming, convincing voices. One thing she messed up a little on was when people bossed Ella. When told to eat in one scene Ella won’t stop until told, but in another when told to stand she does but sits down again not to long afterwards. Wouldn’t she have to keep standing? The author probably did this for it would be very inconvenient otherwise, but I think some readers would get confused if they notice this.
Writing Style: 4/5 Very Well Written: The style is nice when reading it to yourself, but reading it out loud sounds occasionally awkward because of the made up languages she has and because of some of the wordings in the paragraphs. When reading it silently it is smooth and natural, though. She also uses a variety of vocabulary and expressions, so it isn’t the same old phrases and words over and over again.
Moral: 2/5 A Hard to Read Moral: The moral is not clear, but the moral seems to be that if we want something we have to try hard to get it, as Ella has to do this to no longer obey everybody. I think the idea was that if we want to do something we have to set are goal high enough. It is hard to read the moral though, if that is what it is, and could be completely ignored.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The writing style and plot are both done very nicely. I think the moral was lacking, but otherwise it was a well written book. I think all women and girls that like fantasy books or fairy tale parodies will enjoy this, but especially preteen girls.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 0/5 None
Violence: 2/5 Slightly Violent: A girl tells Ella if she misbehaves she will hit. Ella punches this girl in the nose and she bleeds. Ella runs into two people, but not violently. Ella imagines her father as a puppet with a punching glove on it that punches others. Two ogres wrestle, some ogres and knights fight. Ella imagines throwing food at her teachers, and it mentions a king getting hit with a tomato. Ella is afraid that if she marries the prince she will be forced to kill him. A girl considers all sorts of violent things that may have happened to Ella when she was traveling. There is some blood mentioned, but most of it is not from violence.
Swearing and Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 A Little Misuse: A man does call Ella some nasty non-profane names when he believes she lied to him though, such as “minx” and “wench.” Some of those names are used at other times as well. No actual swearing though.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: ½/5 Slightly Disturbing Content: There are mentions of blood that are not associated with violence. Ella throws up when she sees the corpse of a pony. Some ogres want to eat Ella and at one time a baby gnome.
Religious Issues: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: A woman thinks a castle is haunted, but there is no proof it is.
Magic: 3/5 Fairytale Magic: There are mentions of centaurs, dragons, elves, faeries, genies, giants, gnomes, gryphons, harpies, hydras, mermaids, ogres, phoenixes, sirens, and unicorns. About half of them actually show up in the book in character form, though. There are also magical powers that these creatures have i. e. fairies live forever, dragons breathe fire, gnomes can read the future, etc. Faeries do most of the magic in the book including transformations and travel. There are also magic items in the book such as a book that changes what’s in it depending on who reads it or a box that grows and shrinks to accommodate anything. A woman thinks some trees at an abandoned castle “had power.” There is no proof that they do. The word “bewitch” is used as a description. The book focuses around magic, as it focuses around Ella trying to break her gift/curse of always following obeying a person. There is no black or satanic magic, and there are no witches or wizards mentioned.
Others: Brandy, wine and butter rum are all drunk or consumed in the book. I had a problem with Ella’s rebellious spirit. She hates obeying anyone and will often try and find ways around it to feel better, such as when told to bring some almonds she brings only two. It even mentions her hating obedience of a free will. When ordered to be happy when given commands and later ordered to feel as she wishes again, Ella and a friend think she was a slave more than ever. Even the person who gave her the gift admits it was horrible to obey even the people that probably “meant well” such as parents. (I wonder though what are you going to do if you aren’t forced to obey people like your parents? If you were going to obey them anyway what’s the fuss over? Lack of control? Were you not going to obey them?) Though breaking that awful spell is understandable, hating submission as a whole is not a very good example for children and an awful example for teenagers.
Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: I think it was pretty OK, except for Ella’s rebelliousness. It could have been worse, but she was still more rebellious than preferable. I think if you want to enjoy Ms. Levine’s fine writing skills without the rebellious indoctrination there are a lot of other books she has written with less rebellious messages, such as Fairest. You or your child may also be old enough to read it without too much affect on you, though, so it is up to how well you know yourself and your child before reading it or letting them read it. There is also the option of reading it with your daughter and discussing Ella’s behavior and attitude.