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Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young girl surviving on the streets of 1960’s London as a petty criminal gets a taste of high society after befriending two young scions and seeks to make her dreams of becoming a world renowned fashion designer a reality in author Maureen Johnson’s fantastic new retelling of a Disney classic, “Hello, Cruel Heart”. 


The Synopsis 

An electric new story of teenage Cruella de Vil in an original novel inspired by the upcoming Walt Disney Studios Live Action Film, Cruella.

Swinging London, Summer 1967. Sixteen-year-old Estella, gifted with talent, ingenuity, and ambition, dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer. But life seems intent on making sure her dreams never come true. Having arrived in London as a young girl, Estella now runs wild through the city streets with Jasper and Horace, amateur thieves who double as Estella’s makeshift family and partners-in-(petty)-crime. How can Estella dedicate herself to joining the ranks of the London design elite when she’s sewing endless costumes and disguises for the trio’s heists?

When a chance encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two young scions of high society, vaults Estella into the world of the rich and famous, she begins to wonder whether she might be destined for more after all. Suddenly, Estella’s days are filled with glamorous parties, exclusive eateries, flirtations with an up-and-coming rock star, and, of course, the most cutting-edge fashions money can buy. But what is the true cost of keeping up with the fast crowd-and is it a price Estella is willing to pay? 

The Review

This was a truly riveting narrative and perfect spin on the classic story of Cruella. Estella is an endearing and tragic figure, highlighting the person beneath the persona that is destined to become a classic Disney villain. The struggle between Estella’s journey to the streets of London and her petty crimes to striving for the posh life she always thought she wanted and even trusting and falling in love all culminate in a series of events that drive the protagonist to face her darker self, Cruella.

The pacing and setting really stood out in this narrative, highlighting the late sixties in London, an era known for great music, upscale fashion and the seeds of rebellion and so much. The story expertly creates a new layer to the legend of Cruella while honoring the character’s arc and setting the tone for the villains eventual rise, all while making Estella an empathetic protagonist that shows the woman she never had the chance to become, a fate many people have had to endure throughout their lives.

The Verdict

A brilliant, edgy yet heartfelt retelling of a classic character’s history, author Maureen Johnson’s “Hello, Cruel Heart” is a must-read YA novel. The perfect blend of classic Disney characters meeting a retro-style setting and a YA narrative direction, this is the perfect companion read to the hit Disney film Cruella, and a fantastic summer read for 2021. Be sure to grab your copy today!


About the Author

Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue EnvelopesSuite ScarlettThe Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.