Desert Isle Keeper
I have been an avid follower of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries since 2001, when I came across the first two volumes in a bookstore and read them in one sitting. Since then, I have bought each volume as soon as it came out, usually paying full price for the hardback. Forever Princess, together with Princess on the Brink (vol. XIII) and Princess Mia (vol. IX), forms a trilogy of sorts (as did the first three Princess Diaries volumes). While I won’t be able to completely avoid spoilers for Princess on the Brink and Princess Mia, I will endeavor to keep them as light as possible.
Princess on the Brink and Princess Mia are set at the beginning of Mia’s sophomore year. Her boyfriend Michael shakes her to the core by announcing that he will move to Japan for a year or longer. He feels that he must prove himself to be worthy to being in a relationship with a princess and heir to the throne of Genovia, and he has the chance to develop a robotic arm that may be of use in heart surgery if he goes to the Japanese equivalent of Silicon Valley. Mia takes some dramatic actions which misfire badly, which in turn leads to a rift between her and Michael. At the same time, another boy at her school who has been admiring her (Mia being, as usual, oblivious of this) senses an opportunity to win her love. I enjoyed both these volumes very much, but I hated having to wait for two years for the conclusion of these dramatic developments.
Forever Princess starts during Mia’s second-to-last week at school. She hasn’t written in her diary for the last 20 months because she has been busy with her senior project, ostensibly a treatise about the Genovian olive trade, but in reality a medieval romance called Ransom My Heart (incidentally, this book is in print, with all proceeds going to Greenpeace). Now Mia is trying to find a publisher without relying on the power of her name, and therefore uses a pseudonym – several rejection letters are displayed for the amusement of the reader. Because she is such a coward, Mia hasn’t even told her friend Tina, who’s mad about romances, of her novel yet. Another problem is to decide which college she should go to, and what she is to do when Michael finally returns to New York.
Mia is her neurotic self, but although she still obsesses about all her problems, she does so for shorter periods of time and is far more prepared to act for herself than she was in the past. I really liked the way Meg Cabot shows her increased maturity without changing the character beyond recognition. The relationships she has have also evolved since her sophomore year. Mia’s friendship with Lilly undergoes some drastic and painful (and, in my opinion, necessary) changes, and there is a very amusing and true twist as regards her old nemesis Lana Weinberger. (Dear Meg Cabot, can we have a novel about Lana at college? I’d adore that!)
The main question for me and most other readers, however, was: Will Mia work matters out with Michael, or won’t she? Will she find her happy ending with him, or with his rival? I’ve always been a firm Michael-ite, and I really hated the other boy when it became obvious that he was trying to win Mia over, thinking him manipulative. That he is, but in Princess Mia Meg Cabot managed the not inconsiderable feat of raising my my sympathies for him by showing that that’s how someone acts to win the girl he’s in love with. So when I opened Forever Princess, I honestly didn’t know which guy Mia would end up with. I kind of guessed early on, but still remained hooked by the question of how everything would turn out. And let me tell you, there were several surprises along the way. I will never think of horse carriages in Central Park quite the way I did before. As for the men in Mia’s life, how they act and for what reasons is truly riveting to read about.
Forever Princess serves as the worthy conclusion of a series that I have enjoyed tremendously throughout, easily matching the very high standard of the first three volumes. I highly recommend it; I would also recommend that you read the last three volumes of the series in a sequence, because it will only enhance your enjoyment to see how skillfully Meg Cabot builds up characters, events and romantic mood to the stirring finale.