Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Initially, I was turned off by Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister because of its appearance. Everything about it’s design—the image on the die-cut cover, the thickness of the pages, the large size of the font, the illustrated decals in the corners of the pages, the illustrated page opening each chapter—makes it look like a children’s chapter book, like something a fifth-grade girl would hold precious.

However, it is only one of two Adult Fiction Cinderella adaptations I have on my list to read; the rest of the books are YA. After immersing myself in YA for the past few days, I wanted to dive into Maguire’s book to see if I could see any glaring differences between the two genres, especially given the books are working with similar characters, tales, and tropes. Maguire, having authored several books for adults and children, seems to have found his niche.

Althought the font is pretty huge, Confessions comes in at 368 pages. It took a few chapters to get into, but after that it became quite fun. I’ve thought about what makes this story fun. There’s certainly comparable treachery and poverty to what is in Bound, which I wrote about before. But even being YA, Bound was a serious historical novel. Confessions is a historical novel set in seventeenth-century Holland, but serious it is not. It’s campy. That’s the best word I can think of—campy. Once I settled into the campiness of the story—the characters, the scenes, the dialogue—it was a nice ride. What it reminds me of, really, is the most campy of all day-time soaps: Passions. Remember the town witch, Tabitha, and her dwarf doll-boy? I suppose if you like yourself some Passions, you might like some Gregory Maguire.

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