Princess In Love
Grade : A-

Mia Thermopolis (full name: Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo) is a fourteen-year-old, vegetarian, environmentalist, New-York-City-residing European princess. It has only been a few months since Mia learned she was heir to the throne of Genovia, and since she found this out, her life has been one catastrophe after the next. In order that she might one day assume the throne, Mia must practice deportment with her truly hideous grandmother. And while she's trying to figure out how being a princess will affect her real life, she still must pass Algebra, deal with the fact that her math teacher has recently married her mother, and navigate the dangers of growing up.

One of those dangerous complications is having a boyfriend. All of a sudden, Mia does. Kenny. But, unfortunately for both Mia and Kenny, Mia's heart beats faster for someone else than it does for Kenny. Mia is in love with her best friend Lilly's older brother Michael. And she has been in love with him for forever. To further confuse the issue, it looks like Michael is now involved with someone else, Judith Gershner, who is a brain just like Michael, can clone a fruit fly, and who makes Mia feel completely unworthy and stupid. Despite the very large obstacles of Judith and Kenny, Mia feels she must do something to win Michael's heart. But will what she plans to do make a difference? Will Michael ever notice her as a woman?

Princess in Love is so good primarily because it's so funny. Mia's life through Mia's eyes is comical often to the point of absurdity. She writes secret algebraic love poems to Michael, she makes goofy To Do lists, she has run-ins with her scary grandmother, she gets into numerous scrapes and she has no idea how to get out of them. And all of this chaos is viewed with an adolescent sense of angst and impending doom that somehow manages not to be sad or pathetic, but funny in the extreme. Mia is a sort of savvy, urban, new millennium Jane Purdy, and her experiences are unreal yet quite familiar.

Mia views her world through the lens of pop culture, which makes her seem more authentically teenaged. There are numerous references to Buffy, Disney movies, Japanese anime, instant messaging, current fashions - everything that a teenage girl might be obsessed with merits a mention. In the long run, these references will probably date the book, but for the present, Mia's concern with what's hip adds a little more definition to her character and provides further amusement as well.

I might make the recommendation that these Princess Diaries books should be read in order. It isn't that the action or the emotions of the characters aren't understandable out of order, but I think there's an extra oomph to the ending of Princess in Love for those familiar with how Mia has interacted with her friends, and especially with Michael, in the previous books. It would be no hardship to read The Princess Diaries or Princess in the Spotlight. Both of them are enjoyable. The first book is hysterically funny, and the second one is pretty good as well.

Princess in Love has two small flaws, neither of which impaired my enjoyment of it in any significant way. First, occasionally, very occasionally, Mia's observations seem to come from a much older person than a fourteen-year-old. Part of the great charm of this series is that Mia is an endearing mix of naivete and sophistication. She freaks out over insignificant things, but takes much more challenging problems in stride. Yet sometimes her musings have the ring of an older, more educated person to them.

And, secondly, the book is written in diary format, but Cabot does tinker some with the order of things and what is included to keep the attention of the reader, make the tension higher, and the resolution better. This is a nitpicky detail, since most readers won't care whether a "real" diary would be written in this style or not. In fact, I didn't care, but I did notice it, especially toward the end of the book.

One further caveat: skip The Princess Diaries movie. Everything enjoyable about these books, all of the quirky observational humor and the funky secondary characterization, was erased from it and replaced with third-rate slapstick gags.

I highly recommend this series in written format though. Mia is a wonderfully engaging character, and I can't wait to see what life throws at her next. I'm sure that, whatever it is, she'll think it's CATASTROPHIC (!!!!!!), and I'll think it's hilarious.

Reviewed by Rachel Potter
Grade : A-
Book Type: Young Adult

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : April 9, 2002

Publication Date: 2002

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