Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ahead of its Time: The Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries #1)
Turtleback Books, 2000

The year was 2000. The world at large had not, in fact, ended in the midst of Y2K concerns, however my world might as well have. Not that I'd loved elementary school, but compared to junior high... Junior high was proving to be another planet. So imagine my joy when I found Mia Thermopolis. She was struggling with her new school and the ridiculous world of algebra, too. Only I hadn't also just found out that I was a princess and heir to the throne of a small European country.

I have been a longtime fan of Cabot's work, and my summer break from school felt like a perfect time to revisit this series that I loved when I was younger, but never got around to finishing. I'm also a fan of the movies, but they are completely different from the events Cabot laid out here. In the first book, readers meet Mia, a sarcastic Manhattan teen who is a little bit oblivious to life, is failing algebra, is mortified that her mother is dating her algebra teacher, has a best friend who isn't always the fuzziest person ever, has a hopeless crush on the most popular guy in school, and on top of all of that finds out that due to her father's recent bought of cancer, the chemo has left him sterile and now she is his only heir to the throne of Genovia. Then comes Grandmere, the dowager princess and current leading royal who comes to stay at the Plaza Hotel and torture her granddaughter via "princess lessons." All Mia wants is a date to the Cultural Diversity Dance, is that so much to ask?

I flew through this book over the course of a few hours, the style of it like a conversation with a best friend, and I am excited to continue in this series. Also, it was nice to revisit my first ever book boy crush, Michael Moscovitz :)

In my opinion, contemporary fiction is where Cabot shines brightest, both in the YA and adult arenas. She has characters that feel familiar, like you really could be friends with them even though they are often in extraordinary circumstances. In Mia, I found a fictional friend who I loved growing up with, and I told Cabot as much when I met her a few years ago at my second ever signing event. And remember, back in 2000, YA wasn't really a "thing" yet. Cabot often shares the story of trying to find an agent and publisher for this book in the mid/late 90s and how it was a struggle because the story was too old for the children's section, but too young for the adult's. Thankfully, the HarperCollins family was willing to take a chance, and the rest is history.

If you're in the mood for a fun, light read to take you out of reality for a little while, pick up The Princess Diaries - you'll be glad you did.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

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