Author: Adeline Yen Mah
Number of pages: 197
Date Published: 1999
Rating (out of 5 stars): 2
Set in 1940s China, Chinese Cinderella is author Adeline Yen Mah’s memoir of her difficult childhood as an unwanted daughter. After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline’s family considers her bad luck and detests her presence. With only a disempowered aunt and an elderly grandfather to lean on, Adeline endures the seemingly endless torment of her siblings and nasty stepmother. Taking place over the course of eleven years, Chinese Cinderella employs many well-chosen anecdotes that give the reader a sense of what life was like for the young Adeline. Never invited on outings, forbidden from visiting friends’ houses or bringing friends home, and consistently told that she will never amount to anything, Adeline Yen Mah’s story is surely one that will break your heart. Turning to academics for asylum, Adeline teaches readers what it means to be strong and to persevere.
Although Chinese Cinderella is an uplifting story about a young girl succeeding against all odds, it still did not wow me. I found the dialogue to be unrealistic and even a bit silly at times. At the beginning of the novel, when the children were only about six-years-old, the dialogue seemed too mature and analytical for such young characters. The conversations between them became too much like a summary of the book, as if the characters were trying to explain to the readers what was going on in the story. I cannot see a person talking in such a high-level descriptive manner in real life, which is a huge problem. The language disconnect does not allow the reader to relate to the characters or see them as anything aside from mere words in a book.
It did not take me long to read Chinese Cinderella, not because I was so enthralled that I couldn’t put it down, but because it is so short. At only 197 pages, with a lot of white space and family photos in the middle, Chinese Cinderella is not much of a time commitment. Although this novel is placed in the young-adult category, I would only recommend it to pre-teens. This novel has important messages of determination and work ethic, and is interesting because it gives the often told Cinderella story a new twist, but the writing style and actual content of the novel were boring and even a bit annoying. So unless you are 12-years-old and love the fairytale of Cinderella, don’t bother with this book.
Review by Brittany Duncan, A&S '16