A Cinderella retelling, released by Disney, with a plus-size protagonist? Could there be a more perfect book for me?
Cindy has recently graduated from design school in New York and is struggling to find her place in the world. Her aspiration to be a shoe designer hasn’t led to any job offers so far and so she moves back home to help her TV-Executive stepmother Erica with her young siblings. When three contestants drop of out Before Midnight, Erica’s Bachelor-esque style show, Cindy and her two stepsisters quickly volunteer to take part. Cindy’s intentions are not initially aimed at finding love: she merely wants to get her name and her shoe designs out into the world, but when the bachelor turns out to be a familiar face, that quickly changes.
Cindy as a character was so relatable and I am so grateful to Julie Murphy for showing the world that a plus size protagonist can capture the hearts of both readers and the book’s love-interest.
I also really appreciated that the Bachelor- style format meant that Henry was guaranteed to be considered attractive in a world where women like Cindy generally are not. The contradictions of our real-life industry were further highlighted by the reluctance of her family when Cindy suggests going on the show. They were always supportive but they worried about how she would be treated. However, they had no such concerns when it came to Cindy’s slimmer stepsisters and as readers the juxtaposition here is incredible. Doesn’t Cindy have just as much right to find love as the other girls? Shouldn’t she be able to do that without fear of public comments?
Cindy’s struggles in situations such as the catwalk challenge will resonate with millions of readers. Who hasn’t felt heartbroken when an outfit doesn’t fit? Who hasn’t wanted to creep out of the changing rooms or ditch the event and stay home? But Julie Murphy proves that Cindy, and all of us, are stronger than that. Cindy as a character is perfectly aware of her size but at no point in the novel does this affect her confidence in herself: rather than accepting defeat, Cindy makes the sample sized clothes work for her body and sends a stronger message, why should we work towards fashion’s ideals? Why can’t they work towards ours?
Despite the strong social messages underlying this story, If the Shoe Fits is firmly a feel-good romance novel. The romance between Cindy and Henry is certainly a slow burn and, although I have read a few criticisms of their relationship, it felt quite real to me. Just because this is a fairytale retelling it doesn’t mean there has to be love at first sight, or even confessions of love at all! That isn’t always how the real world works.
I loved the little nods to Cinderella: Julie Murphy doesn’t throw the original fairytale in our faces in the slightest but the details are all there if we look for them. It was also refreshing to not have an evil stepmother or stepsisters, Cindy’s whole family are so supportive of her and you can see that reflected in her character. In saying that, I would have liked Cindy to be a little more outspoken, particularly towards the “mean girl” characters, sometimes she was maybe a little too nice.
If the Shoe Fits is a fantastic modern fairytale with characters who you could easily go for a drink with! The plus size representation and social messages scattered throughout the novel make this a really important read for me and are so cleverly written that they do not detract from the original romance story.
I’m really excited to read the next book in the Meant to Be series. By the Book, a Beauty and the Beast retelling, is expected in 2022.