Lo, M. (2009). Ash. New York, NY: Little, Brown and.
Plot Summary: Ash’s story begins much like Cinderella’s her mother dies her father remarries a horrible women with daughters of her own and then dies himself. However the story sets itself apart in Ash’s potential suitors. Ash wanders into the woods and meets the Fairy Sidhean who claims her as his own. She also becomes friends with and eventually falls in love with the King’s Huntress. In the end she must choose between the two, between the magic she once wanted and her chance at true love. She spends one night with Sidhean to break the curse that makes him love her then returns to the huntress for her happily ever after.
Critical Evaluation: This is a really interesting story because of the way the characters are written. The cover art features an Asian women and some of the descriptions of Ash’s world indicate that she is living in a type of Asian society. Melinda Lo has discussed how while she imagined the characters as Asian she intentionally left this vague so that readers could envision the characters as they chose. She also did not want to tie Ash’s world too closely to our own so while there are some Asian characteristics of the world they are intentionally not directly tied to any specific culture or time period in our world. The style of the story reads like a traditional fairy tale and sets the overall magical tone of the book. The faeries in the story in particular have an otherworldly quality to them that really captures the magic they posses. This is sharply contrasted by the huntress who is beautiful in a grounded way. This contrast is particularly apparent when Ash is making her choice between the huntress and Sidhean.
Reader’s Annotation: When Ash meets the King’s Huntress she finds joy and a chance at true love.
Author Information: Melinda Lo was born in China and moved to the United States as a child. She is the author of several books for young adults that are LGBT friendly and also writes about LGBT issues in books on her blog. She has written posts tracking the number of LGBT books published by major publishing houses each year for the past few years along with more fun posts like interviews with other LGBT authors, book lists and recommendations.
Curriculum Ties: This would be interesting to use when looking at Fairy Tales and their modern counterparts.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) Why does Ash choose to stay with the Huntress rather than join the faeries?
2) Melinda Lo has commented that she intended her main characters to be Asian but intentionally left this up to readers interpretation do you think of Ash as an Asian character?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for readers age 14-17 which fits both the reading and interest level.
Challenge Issues: Some people may object to this story because it is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. The book is very well reviewed and has been nominated for a few awards.
Why is it included?: This is a unique offering from the popular trend of retelling fairy tales. I also wanted to include this book because of all the work Melinda Lo does to promote diversity in Young Adult Literature.