…go to the library.”
How many times have I heard, read, or said those words? And when it comes to reading novels, I absolutely live by it. I will not judge a book without reading it. If I hear gossip about a book, hear that it is wonderful, or terrible, or outright controversial, before I pass judgement I go out and read the book. If people ask me my opinion about a book and I haven’t read it yet, I answer with, “I haven’t read it yet.” I have no problem sharing my opinion on books, I just prefer it to be an informed opinion.
Sadly, not all of us try to emulate Hermione Granger in our daily lives.
I bring this up because of a book I read over the summer: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. (Cue collective groaning from people who know what I’m going to say.) This book was published in August 2015 and is a re-telling of the fairy tale Cinderella.
The supposed issue with this book is that people claim it is a copy of Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which was published in January 2012, and also happens to be a re-telling of Cinderella.
If you scroll through Mechanica’s Goodreads page, you see all sorts of passive aggressive posts about how this story is a copy.
No. If they’re both re-telling the same fairy tale, then obviously they would have very similar plot points. Obviously they would both have Cinderellas and Prince Charmings, ’cause you know, that’s kind of how the story goes.
And Cinderella re-tellings are really popular. Check out the New York Public Library’s list of Ten YA Retellings of Cinderella. Oh, and Cinderella as a mechanic? Got that too: Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt. Cornwell and Meyer are not unique in their stories.
And to be fair, I think Cornwell has handled the criticism of her story with a really decent attitude. She answers people’s questions on Goodreads and has explained herself very clearly.
So while this issue has been discussed for almost 2 years and there are many reviews on Goodreads that explicitly state that Mechanica and Cinder are not the same story, I felt like I had to bring it up again. Why? Because there are comments as recent as last month that Mechanica was nothing but a copy of Cinder.
In danger of repeating many other reviewers, I have now read both books and they are not the same. They are stylistically different, the characters are portrayed absolutely different, and I took home a much different message from both of them. I enjoyed both books for very different reasons. And I definitely don’t think it’s fair to penalize Cornwell because her book happened to come out second.
As readers, we are allowed to be critical. We are allowed to say when we don’t like a book. But if we’re going to judge a book, write reviews, and make accusations, shouldn’t we read the book first? If I have questions about a book I’m going to do one thing: go to the library. The best way to know the answers is to read the book.