by Gail Carson Levine
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Despite the fact that we see plenty of magic in Ella Enchanted, the narrative attitude is generally one of realism and honesty. Unlike most teenagers, Ella doesn't OVERREACT TO EVERYTHING !!!!!1! so the tone's not overly dramatic.
Nor is it moralizing. Yeah, we get the sense that Hattie, Dame Olga, and Ella's father are generally reprehensible, but they're not punished for all eternity for their actions. (And Ella isn't, either.)
Sure, Ella's perspective colors everything we see. Plus, she's not omniscient, so what she sees is what we get, without a bunch of speculation on people's motivations. When she smiles at Char after the ogre-capturing incident: "For some reason, he blushed" (15.77).
For some reason? Come on, Ella. We're willing to bet our Shmoopy hats that Char is already crushing on Ella. She just doesn't know it yet. Again, this is represented realistically: there's a little flirtation, a little blushing. No racing heartbeats or swooning or faking suicide or whatever you might find in the likes of Twilight. Just people being relatively normal—if enchanted—people.