Book Review: If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be #1)

I’m an absolute sucker for reimagined fairy tales, and I always have been. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve re-read Ella Enchanted. When I saw Dumplin’ author Julie Murphy had a Cinderella-with-a-twist novel coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it. I was not disappointed!

Cindy has always loved shoes. So much so that she followed her passion all the way to design school, and she has designed some seriously swoon-worthy shoes. But her spark of creativity is doused when she loses her remaining parent, and she’s struggling to remember who she is and find where she belongs. When her TV-producer stepmother needs someone to fill in on a reality dating show, Cindy leaps at the chance to get her name as a designer out there by participating. She chose to go on the show Before Midnight to help her find her footing as a designer, but soon she finds herself presented as a body positivity icon with more stake than her shoes.

There is so much to love about this book. The voice is perfect, the characters well developed, the plot nicely paced and engaging– all of which adds up to an un-put-down-able book. But what really put it over the edge for me is the representation. I love when media reflects our real world, with people of all sizes, shapes, and hues. Julie Murphy is well-known for plus-sized representation, and If the Shoe Fits fits the mold perfectly.

Cindy is confident in her beauty, which is something I love to see in characters. She’s a wonderful designer, she has a great relationship with her peers and her teachers, and she’s just an overall lovable gem working through her grief. She has an adorable meet-cute with a handsome guy at the airport, who later assists her with a problematic seat mate, and it’s all rom-com gold. Spending time in Cindy’s head is a delight, as her comedic train of thought observes the world around her as she tries to find her place in it.

What I love about how Cindy’s size is represented is that it isn’t treated as a flaw, an illness, or a problem. The only time it’s a plot point is when it’s weaponized to use against her, or when she struggles to find clothes because plus sizes aren’t frequently carried. Instead of treating it as something to be ashamed of in these cases, Cindy uses the opportunity to educate the characters (and the reader) about issues in the fashion industry and the ripple effect it has on women of all sizes. This novel is incredibly inclusive, and I’m here for it.

What if Cinderella’s step-family wasn’t awful? I loved this component of the story. From the supportive but uncertain what to do stepmother to the we-will-fight-for-you stepsisters, to the adorable four year old triplets that trail Cindy like puppies, Cindy’s family is wonderful, odd, and quirky in the best ways.

All of the characters are well developed, the kind that an image immediately enters your mind and your brain recalls it each time they’re mentioned without any prompting or reminding. I loved how the relationships with the other contestants were difficult, because they wanted to uplift other women but they were also all in competition together. That situation and mindset was perfectly described and believable. The representation of various backgrounds, sexualities, and sizes was a refreshing dose of reality in fiction.

Thank you to NetGalley, Disney-Hyperion, and Julie Murphy for an advanced copy of this book so that I can review it.

If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be #1) will be available August 3, 2021.

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