Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo (or Mia, for short) has returned to keeping a diary the way she did as a girl, and it’s just in time to document some new crazy episodes in her life. Her dad, the Crown Prince, is in jail; her stalker is threatening her, a family secret is coming out and, after an unexpected proposal from her high school boyfriend Michael, she has to put herself together as a royal bride.
Mia is a fun narrator. She’s neurotic and insecure (her two obsessions are using an app called iTriage to decide she has a horrible disease and checking her ranking on a celebrity site called Rate the Royals), but kind and well-intentioned. I appreciated that she’s not unilaterally incompetent, at one point winging a perfect and articulate response to a question about conflict diamonds. She also has a heart and a sense of responsibility, lobbying for her country to take a stronger role in supporting refugees in a crisis that parallels the current Mediterranean situation.
The book centers more on zany happenings than on Mia and Michael’s relationship, because frankly it’s just a good match and therefore not a source of drama. For all that Michael isn’t “on camera” that much, I got a strong sense of him as a big dork who is very good for Mia. I admired Cabot for conveying that so efficiently and making me invested in that relationship when I didn’t have a background in the series. (If, like me, this is your first Princess Diaries book, you’ll be able to follow it just fine. If you’re picking it for a very young fan, you should know that there is sex.)
Cabot has fabulous way with words. An island dining area is “decorated to look like one of those old-timey beach houses from the movies where people wore safari suits and drank gin and tonics to prevent malaria and said things like, ‘I’m terribly worried about the volcano, Christopher.’” The geeky sexy stories Mia makes up with Michael are hysterical, but I won’t quote them so you can enjoy them yourself. Cabot also has a deft hand balancing the light comic elements with perspective. In a scene I particularly liked, Mia’s hairstylist Paolo reminds her that her problems are the problems of privilege:
“For life, you never know where the road will take you. Yours took you to a place where you got the diamond shoes, but now all you can say is, ‘Ow! These diamond shoes! They fit so tight and hurt so much!’ No one wants to hear about how tight your diamond shoes fit. You got the diamond shoes!”
Then he finishes the scene by suggesting that Mia will feel better if she lets Paolo’s boyfriend wave hands over her to correct the flow of the energy of the universe. Because this is Meg Cabot.
I would liked to have seen Mia a bit more grown-up and a bit more polished, since she’s been a princess for nearly half her life. The voice of the narrator still felt more like an awkward high schooler than the twenty-six-year old global figure Mia has become. About two-thirds of the way through the book, Mia does something incredibly impulsive and thoughtless involving another character. It’s not only inappropriate given her royal status, but Mia also doesn’t think enough about the impact her actions will have on the other person. I lost respect for her when she did that.
One other complaint was that some elements of the book were too pat. High school friends were all super-successes (international pop star! Wife of a Rockefeller! Medical equipment millionaire!), to the point that their lives seemed more like a yearbook “crystal ball” future prediction than an actual outcome. In addition to Mia, several other couples get together. Mia’s stalker is revealed to be one of the only two unpleasant people in the book. I like happy endings, but the many plotlines tied up too neatly.
On the whole, though, this book is just plain fun. I haven’t laughed out loud at a book this way in a very long time. I am definitely a Meg Cabot convert.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.