All of the below books are authored by Meg Cabot.
- The Princess Diaries: A Novel
- Princess in the Spotlight
- Princess in Love
- Princess in Waiting
- Princess in Pink
- Princess in Training
- Party Princess
- Princess on the Brink
- Princess Mia
- Forever Princess
- Royal Wedding
Overall (Literary) Rating: ***
Overall (Entertainment) Rating: *****
That caps it. That’s the lot. I read these because my friend told me there was more than one book on which one of the movies I enjoyed as a young adolescent was based. That was thrilling enough. Then I discovered there was a series – a full series. I had to read them. I’m pleased to tell you that a new Princess Diaries movie is in the works, which means I’ll get to watch Anne Hathaway, and maybe even Julie Andrews be as incredible as they are and share a screen once more.
Everyone knows the plot. These are the diaries of Mia Thermopolis, who, in ninth grade, discovers that she’s a Princess. They follow her thoughts and her interactions with her friends (and newly discovered family) as she understands how to live this dual life nobody prepared her for.
I can’t really do a literary critique for this. That would be an injustice. Instead, I’m going to tell you what this book succeeds at, and why some books in the series are better than the others.
Meg Cabot succeeds at creating the image of a teenager who doesn’t fit in who is suddenly expected to fit in. Mia has a uniquely pre-teen/teen voice, which allows for relatability: in terms of the kind of things she thinks about and talks about, a lot of “millennial” humour (which is hilarious, right at the turn of the century), and several pop culture references. Mia’s friends (true friends) are few in number, allowing for them to each be integral parts of the story, which means that there’s constant dynamics to look forward to and see evolving throughout the series.
The plot is crazy. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s unreal. There’s no way people go through these things in real life. It’s such a whirlwind. And so much happens in the books that have 4 stars. Books with 3 stars were the books that had slower plots, and plots I didn’t enjoy so much. The first three books are a lot of high school drama and high school love (and a lot of bickering), but after that Mia makes some strides into policy-making (as Princess), and runs an administration, attends some fancy events, gives speeches, forgets about her friends (which leads to more bickering), and then gets married, eventually.
There’s a lot to unravel, and I don’t think I should unravel any of it, because this series is worth spending time reading. The comedy value is unparalleled, the friendships are wholesome – because they go through genuine cycles of fighting and making up, which mimics reality. The familial relations are messy, but intriguing. And Mia’s Grandmere is worth every single word she says.
At the end of the series, all I was left thinking about was why I grew up with gendered books, and rather, why books catering to young individuals are gendered in the first place. That gendering meant that this slipped past my radar completely. But these books aren’t meant for one reading age, or one reading group. I enjoyed them at 21 the same amount I think I would have loved them aged 12.
The series did slow down toward the end, as Mia grew older. You can see signs that Cabot is out of her comfort zone when she writes “adult” Mia’s diary. But the series remains enjoyable, and irrespective of its conclusion (which some might not entirely enjoy), is going to be something you carry with you – to get you out of reading slumps, or to push you through days that are a little low.
I visited Genovia this year too. And it was everything the books made it to be.