4 StarsIn futuristic Beijing, Cinder works as a mechanic supporting her adoptive family. If life wasn't hard enough, Cinder is also a cyborg, making her second class citizen with few rights. Cinder’s step-family rejects her because of her “monstrosities” except for Pearl, her excitable younger step-sister. When Pearl contracts the deadly letumosis virus, Cinder’s step-mother volunteers Cinder for the cyborg-draft used to find a cure for the virus. However, the scientists are shocked when they learn Cinder may be the key to the cure…or something even more dangerous.Cinder is one of those books where I can see all the problems, but I LOVE it. Craft is important (and Meyer is a skillful writer), but at the end of the day, a book engages a reader on a visceral level. Something can be held up as a paragon of literature and you absolutely abhor it (ask me my feelings on Anna Karenina) or something can be imperfect or downright amateur and you love it to pieces (my inexplicable love of Clockwork Angel – though Meyer is a much better writer than Cassandra Clare).Cinder is a clever story and Meyer has a great voice for storytelling – perfect for a modern fairy tale. Cinder’s story and the “twists” aren't exactly earth-shattering: you know where the story is going to go before it gets there. Enjoyment comes more from how the story gets there. Meyer’s voice just grabs you and draws you in. One scene flows to the next, keeping the reader enthralled. It’s wonderful seeing how Meyer adapts the various facets of the Cinderella tale to her globalized sci-fi world.Cinder is a great character. She’s determined and smart, living in a world that hates her for what she is. Meyer doesn't shy away from Cinder’s identity as a cyborg – in fact the first few paragraphs are about Cinder replacing her old foot with a new one. Cinder’s cyborg identity is very much a part of her and plays an important part in the story – it isn't lip-service later forgotten. It felt ballsy, because while YA (and the romance genre and one could probably argue fiction in general) readily accept a male protagonists/love-interests as physical monsters/other (think back on all those vampire/werewolf/paranormal creature books that were so popular a few years ago, it rarely embraces female protagonists as physical monsters/other. I especially loved that while Cinder receives help along the way, Cinder is the master of her own destiny. Unlike Cinderella in the original fairytale, who relies on her fairy godmother and the prince in order to have her happy ending, Cinder creates her own story in order to save the day. Cinder has her moments of self-doubt and makes a few dumb decisions, but overall, she’s a smart resourceful girl.The supporting characters are a bit flat, since the focus of the book is on Cinder and her hero’s journey, but they are colorful and interesting, as befitting a fairytale. I loved Iko, Cinder’s robotic companion, who dreams of balls and dresses, but has a biting tongue that gets her in trouble. I liked the romantic interest of Kai, but while likable and relatable, he was a bit bland and his relationship with Cinder boiled down to insta-love. While their relationship isn't the crux of the story unlike the original fairytale, it was a bit of a let-down.And holy crap, the villain? Queen Levana? Good luck defeating that shit, Cinder. That bitch has some serious Emperor Palpatine-level head-fucking scary face going on.However, despite my love of the story, my biggest problem with this book was the lack of cultural detail and the whitewashing (?) of many characters. The book takes place in New Beijing, but it could have taken place in London, Nairobi, or Rio de Janeiro for all the culture that was infused in the book. Throwing in a reference to bamboo or chopsticks does not an Asian setting make. It felt more like appropriation instead of incorporation. There is some background stating that after World War IV, everyone was so devastated they just kind-of conglomerated these country-continents together, mixing different cultures. So we get a very Japanese-sounding society in China (plus a few references to wontons and jade). What about India? Thailand? Malaysia? Korea? These are Asian countries as well, but none of their culture has assimilated? Why is Japanese culture the predominant culture? The cultural world-building seemed very phoned-in, especially compared to the rich sci-fi details of the world.When I started reading, I had assumed that Cinder and all the characters were Chinese. However, as the story progressed it’s revealed that Cinder is European. I have to admit I was disappointed because I thought I was reading an Asian protagonist, but instead I got the pale brunette Caucasian of every YA ever written ever. Many characters have very European characteristics like curly hair. It seemed strange to set a story in Beijing if most characters aren't going to be Chinese. Granted, most of the characters aren't explained in any sort of detail, except blanket statements like ‘handsome’ or ‘plain.’ I think the author was trying to portray a completely multi-cultural globalized world, but that honestly felt like lazy world-building. A bit off topic, but I found out while reading that the author used to write Sailor Moon fan-fiction and it doesn't surprise me. It’s not like Cinder steels anything from Sailor Moon, but there is this feeling, this Sailor Moon-y vibe I can’t explain. Maybe it’s the Sailor Moon-type of girl empowerment? Or maybe it’s just I feel some sort of sisterhood to another Sailor Moon fan.Cinder isn’t an in-depth character study, nor is it really a sci-fi novel (maybe a very soft sci-fi novel). But it is an adventure tale with colorful characters and an interesting (if a bit sloppy) world and it succeeds damn well at what it is. On a craft level, I’d give it 4 Stars, but my personal reaction is 5 OMGSQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Stars.