[Book Nook] ‘If The Shoe Fits: A Meant To Be Novel’ Can’t Quite Find The Right Balance In These Heels

Book Nook is a little corner of Screen Queens dedicated to books. From book adaptations to book reviews this will be a place for readers of SQ to engage with the oldest form of entertainment, the written word.

Title: If The Shoe Fits: A Meant To Be Novel

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Hyperion Avenue

Disney is very invested in their princess line-up as they aim to produce countless remakes and reinterpretations of their most famous fairy tales. That ambition goes far beyond the realm of film and TV, and that energy to reinvigorate people’s interest in these stories normally meant for children is coming to adults.

The Meant To Be series aims to take our classic fairytale heroines and bring them into a modernized realm, starting with Julie Murphy’s If the Shoe Fits which modernizes the Cinderella tale. It follows the recently graduated up-and-coming shoe designer Cindy. After getting a degree from fashion school, Cindy is unable to get her footing and heads back “home” to live with her stepmother, stepsisters, and three younger half-siblings. The plan is for Cindy to take over nanny duties for the triplets while she figures out her next move. Meanwhile, her super successful stepmother is preparing another season of her super popular dating reality show, Before Midnight, which is effectively The Bachelor. When a spot on the show needs to be filled, Cindy and her stepmother are surprised to find Cindy volunteering for the part and that Cindy is committed to taking on the task. While Cindy is looking forward to the possible career opportunities that would be open to her, things take a turn for the romantic when Cindy has an actual connection with the show’s bachelor, Henry.

For anyone who appreciates the story of Cinderella, they will surely get a kick out of Murphy’s retelling of the classic story. There are many nods to the tale, specifically Disney’s version, but with a twist. The twist is that the story is a lot more kind to its cast of characters and completely recreates the dynamics that make Cinderella what it is. The “evil” stepfamily is nonexistent. For the most part, Cindy’s relationship with her stepmom and sisters is good. Even though her stepmom is concerned for her plus-size stepdaughter, there is never any shame attached and/or abuse aimed towards Cindy, just misguided concern. The three little mice who helped Cinderella are now her half-siblings, lovingly given the names of Cinderella’s most trusted companions. There isn’t a fairy godmother unless you consider Cindy’s confidence in herself and the assistant producer Beck’s encouragement of Cindy as filling the fairy godmother role. The hallmarks of all that make the Cinderella story are present in If The Shoe Fits, but this retelling is far from interested in rehashing any of that and aims to be its own thing. The connections are superficial at best, with specific Cinderella plot points used as story markers along the way.

Julie Murphy’s writing is sweet and sassy. She is more than equipped at handling a plus-sized character and giving them a worthy story and a persona that is more than their clothing size. Cindy is a nice, ambitious and all-around remarkable person, who does not once doubt her worth. However, there is very little given to the other characters to fully flesh out Cindy’s experience and how she relates to them. And while there is no need to give our male lead more of a spotlight, it certainly would have been nice to have either a dual perspective in the book or more time spent building the relationship. While Cindy’s love life is not the most important element in the story, it is integral to her passion for shoe design. If Henry and the romance inspire Cindy to create, then her relationship needs to have a little more depth. That being said, Murphy’s writing is capable of endearing us to Henry and the romance, so for what it’s worth, they will make you smile.

Cinderella meets The Bachelor, with a plus-sized protagonist is a compelling enough narrative; however, it’s missing the dramatic tension to hit home the body positivity narrative. While our protagonist is rock solid and infallible (for the most part), the supposed narrative of her being an instant icon is not relayed believably. One does not want someone to outright fat-shame Cindy, but other than Cindy standing up against the lack of diversity in fashion sizing, and snarky comments from another contestant, most of the body positivity on display is surface level. Perhaps if the narrative revolved around modelling or fashion design, then Cindy’s character arc and what she represents would have folded in neatly with a narrative about fashion and diversity of body types. But since it is a narrative about a love story, with a love interest that barely registers in the story, everything built around Cindy is flimsy, contrived, and haphazardly put together. This book moves at breakneck speed, with much of Cindy’s triumphant moments feeling abrupt and rushed into. And with the characters around Cindy being so underdeveloped, including her stepfamily, the book feels ultimately like a one-and-done sort of reading to pump some serotonin into your system while you bathe under the sun this summer. Everything other than Cindy is too simple, and with such low stakes, this summer read doesn’t warrant a re-read.

If The Shoe Fits is a fun, quick read, that is light on drama but bursting with positive energy. In many ways, it reads like a treatment for a limited series or movie, and perhaps it ultimately would have been served better in that format. While the story will ultimately leave you feeling a little unsatisfied, there is solace in knowing that Cindy, our beloved shoe-obsessed plus-sized queen, gets her happy ending and the career boost she so rightly deserves.

Purchase If the Shoe Fits at your local bookshops or find an online vendor here.

by Ferdosa Abdi

Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020)On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.

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