Families are difficult sometimes. We don't always support our families the way we should and vice versa. This happens for a number of reasons: divorce, job loss, or even just moving to a new city can change the family dynamic so that family members become focused more on their own problems, needs, and wants. Occasionally that leads to such a toxic environment for one or more members of the family that it becomes impossible to safely and/or sanely live and when that happens, sometimes the best thing to do is leave.
Faced with this situation when their father becomes corrupted by Prince Monticello and leaves the family, Cinder and Ella both escape the deteriorating family life. Both have good reasons for doing so, but I feel that Ella actually made the most of her leave of absence. While Cinder goes to the castle to seek work in order to support herself, Ella flees her family altogether and builds her own life and finds her self worth without the aid of her family. She gains a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem that I don't think she would have found being constantly compared to the "more generous and accommodating" Cinder.
Too often society insists that we must remain loyal to the family group, even when it is detrimental to do so. While both young women leave that environment, Ella leaves all of her obligations behind (at least initially). I think she made the right choice, and here's why:
Ella initially had no identity on her own. She suffered severely from middle child syndrome, namely being somewhat lacking in any sort of identifier to set her apart from her siblings, and so felt she had no role in her family to begin with. This was lessened by the fact that she was her father's favorite, but once he leaves, not only is Ella's Purpose in the family removed, but her mother even begins to meld her together with Cinder (hence she and Ella become Cinderella). The family itself has declared her obsolete and, regardless of whether or not that is true, by refusing to recognize her contributions, the family loses all rights to demand them.
Ella does eventually return to the family and this is also an acceptable turn of events for both her and people who have faced this sort of situation. However, she does not return before she is ready to do so on her terms. She learns not only that she can contribute in her own way (by meeting and working for another family), but that she can also make friends and family outside of the one she was born into. This is sometimes a necessary experience as it gives those of us who may not have a strong Birth Family the option of supporting and being supported by an auxiliary network during times of great joy, sorrow, or anxiety. There is no shame in leaving your family to become your own person, to become a stronger person, especially when there is so much at stake in terms of losing yourself in a harmful situation.
My review can be found on Goodreads.LibsNote: Review copy provided by NetGalley.