Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (2006)
Sometimes you just want to snuggle down with a nice sweet fairy tale, and Levine is one author I turn to when I need a bit of story-comfort. Although written 13 years ago, Fairest is as relevant today in its themes of female beauty and self-esteem as it ever has been, and no doubt will continue to be.
15-year-old Aza starts out, as many good fairy-tale heroines do, as an orphan. Happily for her, though, she is not of the downtrodden and unwanted type; she does have a loving, hard-working family. Her problems are confined to her misery over her lack of looks.
Aza is convinced she is ugly, and thus not fit to be seen. Aza might not be good looking, but she does have a remarkable voice, and in a kingdom where singing is highly prized this is a gift that cannot fail to bring her notice. A chance opportunity takes Aza out into the world, to the royal palace, no less. And when the new queen appoints Aza as her lady-in-waiting, things seem very exciting — but… the beautiful new queen is not all she appears to be. And in this adventuresome retelling of Snow White, Aza becomes the queen’s object of envy and destruction.
Wicked magic mirrors, fearful ogres, friendly gnomes and a charming prince; true love and treachery – Aza will have to navigate enemies and emotions alike, and learn that true beauty is not skin-deep. This is a lovely middle-grade story and fun reworking of Snow White set in the same world as Ella Enchanted.