Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mini-Review: THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot

With wry, observant wit, Mia chronicles her rocky first month of high school. First she finds out she's the crown princess of a European principality, then there's a first kiss from her big crush, an empowering ice-cream-cone shove into the sweater of her nemesis, and a meltdown in the ladies' room of Manhattan's Plaza Hotel.
Okay, time for another semi-embarrassing confession. I don't have a single Meg Cabot book on my shelf. I watched The Princess Diaries movie and adored it (Anne Hathaway! Julie Andrews! That guy who plays Joe!), but the book? I tried to read it once but can only remember being mortified to the depth of my nerdy little soul at the mention of the dad's cancer-riddled testicles. (Yeah, the dad doesn't die in the books. Color me surprised.)

But a month or so ago, I had eye surgery, which meant NO READING. I nearly died. Thankfully, my father pitied my blind mewling and found me an audiobook of TPD to listen to.

Oh my gosh. Granted, I blame some of my more extreme reactions on the drugs, but what a fun book! Mia is so authentically teenagery with her dramatic highs and lows. As a braniac artsy kid, she balances the fine line between precocious and idiotic that most teenagers walk. I mean, when I was fourteen, I wanted to be a geneticist and could recite all kinds of facts about genomes. I also did and said really dumb things. I was tickled by how perfectly Ms. Cabot portrays all of the paradoxes that come with being a teenager.

Also, as a fan of the movie, I was intrigued by how different the book was in some major aspects. Mia, for instance, is fourteen instead of the decidedly older character played by Anne Hathaway. Fresh out of middle school, she's the prime character to deal with all the awkwardness mentioned above. She's also described several times as being flat-chested and having hair that looks like a triangle, something that I would love to have seen onscreen. Oh, and who knew SHE was as much of an activist as her pal Lilly? Seriously, she's against the meat industry and all sorts of other things. Lilly is the instigator for many of the stunts pulled for her public access TV show, but Mia is right there with her. Who knew!

Oh, about Lilly... She's a braniac, too? Like, 10x smarter than Mia? Again, who could tell from the movie? Not me! And a big part of the conflict in the book revolves around Lilly being a snotty pain after the whole princess thing comes out, something that's resolved after one scene in the movie.

And Grandmere! She's not the stern-yet-twinkly-eyed Julie Andrews I've grown to love. No, she's a wig-wearing totalitarian with tattooed eyebrows!

But back to Mia. The girl is the meat of the entire book. I felt like I was back in early high school again as I rode the wave of her emotions. Sure, the princess thing is a little over the top, but so much of what she's going through is typical teenage stuff. There's that one guy who won't give her the time of day, the mean girl who makes her life miserable, the other guy that she kinda sorta secretly likes but not that she'll admit it. She has grownups telling her what to do and messing with her already complicated life. She has beliefs and passions that she wants to pursue but feels powerless to do so. She's trying to figure out who she is and what she wants from life, and all she knows right now is that it involves better hair and boobs. And oh my gosh, algebra! Ugh, algebra.
A fairly accurate representation of Mia's emotions
Like I said, I listened to the audiobook version, and I highly recommend it. I HATE audiobooks, but this version was narrated by Anne Hathaway herself, and it was perfect. I must caution you all not to listen to too much in one sitting, however, or her voice will never leave your head. Maddening.

Mini-Points Added For: Mia's very teenage emotions, Meg Cabot's writing style

Mini-Points Subtracted For: Mia is a bit high-strung at times, which can be annoying.

Good For Mini-Fans Of: Fun, light teen lit, The Princess Diaries movie.

Mini-Notes For Parents: Mia has very strong, liberal opinions that can be off-putting to some readers. Also, Grandmere smokes and drinks.

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