I love The Ugly Princess for its message and for having a truly ugly heroine. It’s message, that beauty is only skin deep, came through strong, right from the first page. I especially loved how happy the heroine, Olive, was to be ugly in exchange for her other gifts and how she rejoiced in every new boil and wart.
A third of the way into the book though, the message became confused, with Olive’s sense of self-worth suddenly becoming wrapped up in boys and marriage, where before it was based upon her gifts and her relationship with the animals upon which it was based. Perhaps if Olive hadn’t started out being so sure of herself, or perhaps if more time had been taken to develop her character, this would have seemed like a natural progression.
Given the strength of the message, I wasn’t sure if the secondary message – that every girl needs a boyfriend – was appropriate.
At the beginning of the book it sounds like it’s meant to older readers (ages 9-12), where the language and narrator-style storytelling would have been a perfect fit for the audience. However, with the romantic subplot and the age of the heroine (18), it felt like it would be more appropriate for a teenage audience (ages 13-18).
Assuming that the The Ugly Princess is aimed at the teenage market, I would have liked the author to expand upon the theme of ‘beauty is power’, which came through as a side effect of the main message, particularly through the story of Olive’s sister, Rosaline. As it was, the storyline was a little too straight-forward and some of the descriptions could have been fleshed out.
There is a lot of power in the message that forms The Ugly Princess’s backbone and I loved Olive as the really, really, hideously ugly heroine, but thought Smith could have made more of it.
All in all, The Ugly Princess: Legend of the Winnowwood is a good story with a very important message. Worth reading.