Don’t expect the typical Cinderella story, with a fairy godmother, two stepsisters, and a glorious ball in Donna Jo Napoli’s Bound. And why would you? Napoli never offers anything typical in her young adult fairytale retellings. She once again offers a complex story, combining actual history with fairytale elements. Bound tells the story of young Xing Xing, a girl bound to her stepmother after the death of her father in northern China during the 17th-century Ming Dynasty. She is bound to a life of servitude, alone and unmarried, while her stepsister, Wei Ping, is prepared for a suitable match. While Wei Ping is having her feet bound, Xing Xing is left to dream about a life unbound by the laws of her family and the Chinese society.
I read this book with my mother/daughter book club. Donna Jo Napoli’s exhaustive research helps create a tale that opens the doors to the discussion of ancient Chinese society and the value of women. While the “daughters” in the group were a bit disappointed with the lack of fairytale romance, they appreciated the sense of historical accuracy that Napoli maintains in her tale when Xing Xing seeks a royal marriage to become independent. Fans of Donna Jo Napoli will happily add this tale to their growing list of favorites. (Ages 12+)