The 14-day countdown post is late, but here! Sorry all, I got caught up in a holiday mishmash of a belated Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas tree decorating and let this wonderful young adult novel’s review fall by the wayside.
Ash, by Malinda Lo
This fairytale is a simple, sweet, and genuine retelling of the Cinderella story. I picked it up after recommendations by girl-on-girl culture site Autostraddle and the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast at NPR.
Lo wields language beautifully in tribute to loss, and to first loves, amidst a standard fairytale society of hunters, feasts, and faeries. The strength is in Ash’s emotional landscape and the lush language, rather than character or plot development. But it is tender and lovely.
I like the humanity with which Lo handles her characters, and Ash’s quiet yet powerful sense of equality. She doesn’t throw Feminism in your face. [Not that this work isn’t feminist; nor is all feminism confrontational.] But I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ash was told, “Girls don’t do that;” if she wanted to fight despite a life of dresses at the hearth, or suffered a nightmare marriage with Prince Patriarchy before escaping to true lesbian love. I love many books like that, which address critical issues. But there’s something comforting about Lo’s refusal to demonize anybody (except the wicked stepmother). Lesbian relationships are normalized, but heterosexual relationships aren’t mocked. Ash’s obstacles are life circumstances, not facets of her identity. The characters are respectfully treated, but all fade away, peripheral to Ash’s timeless love.