Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, was the breakout young adult novel of 2012. This science fiction take on an old fairy tale is well worth your time.
The main character, Cinder, is doubly despised: her stepmother can’t stand her, and society looks down on her for being a cyborg—some of her limbs are artificial after an accident she can’t remember. However, she makes a living by being the best android mechanic in New Beijing, and her desires are modest—just a new mechanical foot to replace the current one, which is too small. But then Prince Kai walks into her stall one day as a customer.
She tries not to be overcome by his easy laugh, his undeniable charm, and his friendly interest in her as he engages her in a prolonged conversation. She keeps in mind that she’s just a mechanic, and that he would recoil in horror if he knew her cyborg nature.
Looming in the background is the threat of war: the Lunar Queen may invade Earth, and a prospective marriage to Prince Kai is her best way to advance this plot, with everything coming to a point at a grand festival ball. Kai would much rather have Cinder show up at the ball with him.
Well, do you think Cinder will go?
This is a delightful story, written with as much charm as these characters deserve. Don’t get me wrong; Cinder has its doleful moments as a plague victimizes some of the characters. But we admire Cinder all the more for the compassion she shows, at great risk to herself. The measures taken to combat the plague are disturbing, and some scenes involving the removal of embedded chips from people inadvertently bring to mind some real problems facing teenage girls, but it’s wholesome overall.
Most young adult novels don’t hold my attention, but this new take on an old story has a confident writing style that carried me along.