This was delightful! I went into this story with really no expectations, and not even knowing much of what this story was about besides Cruella origin story, she’s a fashion designer, and this was set in the late 1960s. I love Maureen Johnson’s writing which is why I picked this up and I’m so very glad I did!
Title: Hello, Cruel Heart
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genres: Historical Fiction, Retelling
This book is “inspired” by the upcoming Disney movie ‘Cruella’, but I should mention, I have not even seen the trailer for that movie, and beside watching the animated 101 Dalmatians as a kid, that’s about it with my knowledge of Cruella, so to see a 16-year-old Estella who loves designing clothes, I loved this story.
The story is set in London of summer 1967 and the setting felt so vivid. The fashion and music and people were described so vividly, I felt like I was there. Estella is a 16-year-old girl who lives in an abandoned building and steals to survive – but her true calling is fashion.
I immediately liked Estella, she was down on her luck and did what she had to to survive, but she never gave up her passion of making clothes. She stole scraps of fabric to make wearable pieces she and her two accomplices (friends) could use as disguises as well as every day clothes. Estella has a cruel streak inside of her, which her late mother called “Cruella” who comes out every so often, and Estella works to suppress – she doesn’t want to be cruel to people, but sometimes they just don’t understand how hard it is to be living in poverty.
She befriends two young aristocrats who take a liking to her, leaving her real friends, her found family, behind to join the world of glitz and glamour. It was interesting to watch Estella try and navigate a world she knows nothing of, fancy parties and gatherings and things she never even dreamed up – but she’s willing to do what she must to have her fashion designs be seen by more people.
While this is categorized as young adult, this felt at times almost like an upper middle grade or lower YA novel – and not in a bad way. This story was easy to digest and that’s what made me really enjoy it – I could simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
This was a fun and quick read, and now I’m curious to see the Cruella movie trailer, and the movie itself! If you’re looking for something light and fun to read that has to do with fashion and music in the late 1960s in London, give this one a chance, I’m so glad I did.
I listened to this one as an audiobook and the narrator had a British accent, which was appropriate since this is set in London. I enjoyed this as audio, the narrator was good and it brought the story to life for me. I ended up on 2.5x speed (thanks to Hoopla audio, my choices were 2x or 2.5x. I started on 2x and went up to 2.5 and it felt comfortable.)
I would recommend this one if you’re looking for something short and sweet and fun. We all know how Cruella’s story turns out, so you know going into this it won’t have a happy ending, but I enjoyed learning more of Estella’s background and really enjoyed the fashion and music aspects.