That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not itend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. when I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose. "My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient. Now stop crying, child."
- First sentence, Ella Enchanted
Ella has to obey. She can ignore a request, but an order, she has to obey. This made her into a rebel, or maybe increased her naturally rebellious behavior. Ella is constantly in danger, and she cannot tell anyone about the curse. She spends her time trying to find the fairy that cursed her and trying to figure out how to get her to remove the curse.
This is a variation on the Cinderella story we all know. I didn't realize how much before I started reading. When Ella goes to the ball, she goes in a pumpkin coach with magical coachmen that all revert to normal at midnight.
I read this book as part of my graduate school project on strong female protagonists. Ella is for sure a strong person. She does everything she can to postpone her obedience. She knows she has to do what people say, but she doesn't have to do it in the way they expect. She tries to find ways to delay it as long as she can, even though it pains her to do so.
Readers in grades 3-5 who like fairy tale princess stories.