Poor Pakku. The world is constantly letting even your most basic expectations down.
Although sometimes, it’s good to have something that challenges one’s expectations.
I recently finished reading the book Ash by Malinda Lo. It’s a retelling of Cinderella, so naturally there were a lot of expectations going in just based on knowing that. And…well…dread. Dread, because as a general rule, I hate romance. And Cinderella is that quintessential romantic story that highlights a lot of what I despise ABOUT romance.
Yet this book made me completely re-think my stance, because I quite ENJOYED the romance in its pages! Which made me wonder: Is it not romance that I’ve hated all this time, but the way it is typically portrayed?
The qualities I’ve come to associate with romance are opposite to what I consider love. Love is built on trust and mutual acceptance. Love is full of affection and respect that grows over time. Love challenges the people in it to become better, and gives them the support they need to grow into the best version of themselves.
Whereas romance…romance I’ve typically seen portrayed as something that is built on lies, usually for the sake of forced drama. Where both parties try to be something they’re not to please the other. Where there is very little agency on either side, so wrapped up in the illusions of Love At First Sight that they’ll simply DIE if they can’t be together FOREVER with this stranger. Where nobody asks before they kiss someone else. Where the word “No, not interested” means “Just try harder to woo me, my dislike of you will fade as you repeatedly ignore and disrespect my wishes not to be pursued.”
Ash does not have that kind of romance. Ash instead has a gradually formed friendship, which develops over shared interests in fairy tales and nature and an appreciation of skill, which blossoms into love. While some things are kept as secrets between the two, there are never outright lies. One knows that there is something wrong, but respects that the other must face their trial alone. There is no unwanted rescuing. There is acceptance, and faith, and respect, and I really liked reading it.
The book as a whole was a fairly slow read, but in a pleasant way that made it easy to pick up and easy to put down. It wasn’t a “Grip you by the teeth and drag you on into the early hours of the morning” kind of read. More sedate and meandering than that. Which sometimes can be a refreshing change, when the world itself gets hectic.
Overall, “refreshing” would probably be the word I would use to describe this book. Refreshing in its treatment of romance, of fairies, and of a fairy tale I’d thought I’d lost interest in.
Sometimes, it’s good to have an expectation challenged.
Have you had any expectations be challenged in a positive way?