Dear Gail Carson Levine,
The number of times I have read Ella Enchanted is an inestimable figure. Every time I cry. It's my favorite blanket book; I pull it over my head and retreat into its familiar and comforting pages. This is a dark, timeless, warm, bounce-scented world, before AP essays, pimples, insomnia and my parents' divorce. Like the forts I used to make under my dining room table, where I could watch legs pass and listen to the mystifying words that adults exchanged. This is a world where I am not, where I am simply an observer, free to feel other peoples' emotions to a depth that I am afraid to in the real world. You can't be so empathetic if you want to survive the real world. Here, there's no prince Charmont, there's no Calvin, there's no Mr. Darcy, there's only Holden and the Phonies, delicate and nervous and wrapped in cigarette smoke. I'm holding out for the others in college.
I'd have to say I'm sorry about the movie, partly because Ella Enchanted should have starred me, but also because it's a perfect example of the real world crashing in on your fort. I guess I've felt this way about all the books which I've interpreted specifically, emotionally. I can't accept any visual less excellent than the one I've created in my head. Yet, this interpretation seemed totally untrue to the spirit of the book. They shouldn't have forced a villain into a story where the real villain isn't the evil steps, the hapless fairy or the heartless father; it's the insecurities and fear inside Ella that never allow her to be free until love gives her the strength. That's the part in the book where I bawl uncontrollably. I also bawl uncontrollably with frustrated rage when Anne Hathaway (as Ella) rips off part of her wedding gown and begins to mouth along to "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart." Honestly, isn't the two dimensional portrayal of all heroines, namely Disney's Cinderella exactly what this story is supposed to defy?
I don't buy that housewife Barbie, easy-bake oven, pink flowery hope-chest crap. I don't buy that you can meet a guy once and decide that because of his incredible wealth and good looks/your incredible facial features and kindness to rodents you two can have a working marriage for happily ever after. This is what we force feed little girls, and teach them to worship; that you can't just be clever and unique, you have to have a plastic surgeon fairy godmother. But that's not what this book is about. This is a book about a real Cinderella, a person who is real and complex and still finds true love.
And you know what? It's nice to believe. It's nice to think that somewhere, in some once upon a time, there are people that respect each other and build real relationships. People who understand that magic doesn't solve your problems; you have to have strength of character and conviction. This is the fairy tale that gave me this example, this hope, this love for reading. That is something I receive every time I open this book. For this gift, thank you.
Juneau-Douglas High School, Juneau, Alaska
Teacher: Kristin Garot