Meg Cabot, Princess Mia
I went to the optometrist the Saturday before last, and not only did they fail to actually replace my lenses, they also snapped my glasses in half. For the record, I do not wear contacts. Also, I cannot see half a foot in front of my face without some sort of corrective lenses.
My weekend was fun!
Anyway, I shouldn’t be so overdramatic: they did give me free new frames (nice ones, too), and they put my old lenses in so I was able to see. Unfortunately, my lenses weren’t quite the right size for my new frames, so my vision was a little…off. It was so irritating that I actually broke down and wore a pair of my trial contact lenses that Sunday, even though my eyes are so dry that putting little plastic disks in them kind of makes me want to claw my face off.
All of this was calculated to put me in a most excellent mood.
Which Princess Mia pulled me right out of.
For those not in the know, Princess Mia is like, the ten-thousandth installment in the Princess Diaries series–a series of books about Mia Thermopolis, a (mostly) ordinary girl who discovers when she’s fourteen that she’s the sole heir to a Monaco-like principality.
I read the first three novels when I was an actual teenager, and I completely loved them. As time wore on and I grew older, however, The Princess Diaries…well, they got a little stale. I still loved the first three and all, but I felt as though Cabot was just treading water with all the subsequent books. It’s not that stuff never happened: it’s just that boring stuff kept happening. “Okay, so how is Mia going to freak out about something pointless and stupid in THIS book?” I’d sigh every time a new one was released. Soon, I quit buying them and started swiping them from my sister. Later, I quit reading them all the way through and just skimmed for the highlights (such as they were). Eventually, I quit reading them altogether.
And then, in 2006, Cabot released Princess on the Brink, in which all sorts of romantic hijinks take place and there is trauma and drama and things that we all actually care about. Suddenly, I was enthralled again. And suddenly, I cursed Cabot for only releasing one Princess Diary per year.
And wonder of wonders–when I finally got my greedy little mits on a copy of Princess Mia and devoured it whole (along with a slice of chocolate cake), Cabot actually managed to A.) move the story along significantly; and B.) come up with an ending that is less cliff-hangery than the last one but still leaves you GASPING FOR MORE, OMIGOD.
I know I trash Cabot a lot: I call her out to the woodshed on a fairly frequent basis because I think that some of the things she publishes should never have left her computer’s hard drive. She and Stephen King have pretty much the same problem–when they are ON, they are freaking on. But unfortunately, the next two (or even three) books they write after a great one are…just knock-offs of their old good work. Clearly, they need time to switch gears. And just as clearly, they don’t recognize that and their editors don’t, either. But anyway. When Cabot is off, I want to beat my own head in with a tire iron because it’s that disappointing. But when she is ON, I am perfectly willing to slap on my weird, not-quite-right-glasses and read with skewed vision for hours because her writing is JUST THAT COMPELLING.
So, on to the book at hand. Princess Mia? Princess Mia is quite good. If you haven’t read any of the books thus far, you’re not going to have a damn clue what’s going on now (and seriously, why would you even come in at like, the ninth book and expect to know what’s going? What’s missing inside you that makes you think that’d be okay?). But if you’ve been a fan–fanatical or not–up until this point, Princess Mia is worth the wait. Issues that have been stewing for the past several books finally come to a bit of a head. Mia’s perrenially low self esteem finally gets the attention it needs; she finally realizes that her “best friend,” Lilly, is really quite the douchebag; and Mia finally makes peace with her old enemy, Lana. I liked Princess Mia first because it’s just plain fun reading, but ultimately because it expresses a simple truth: things change. The people you hated as a freshman don’t necessarily end up being your eternal enemies; as I so maturely put it to my mommy after finishing this book, “You grow up and find new people to hate.” And the people you counted as friends don’t necessarily wind up being your bridesmaids. Oh, and your first boyfriend usually isn’t your last boyfriend, no matter how much you love him. I think I like this book so much because in it, Mia FINALLY grows up. She finally has a more adult and mature perspective on the world, and it’s refreshing. Not that I didn’t love the old, freshman-year Mia to pieces and everything, but after seven books, her wide-eyed naivety was getting seriously old.
Recommended for: fans. Sorry, it’s really awesome, but it’s not going to make any damn sense if you haven’t read the previous books.
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