The Princess Diaries are written in first person as Mia writing entries into her journal. The language used is appropriately teenager-ish with lots of “Why me?” and “I am not even kidding”, an extremely annoying phrase, as well as plenty of obsessive comments about boys, kissing, breasts and other teenage behaviours. For this reason, I think it would be unsuitable for children below upper primary or early high school to read.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, paperback, 230 pages, published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2001.
Mia Thermopolis thinks she is just a normal high school student with normal teenager problems, like flunking algebra, and lack of breast development. She thinks she is unattractive, unpopular, and flat-chested, and is sometimes bullied by the popular jocks and cheerleaders at school. Her best friend, Lilly, is a genius with tendencies towards being a bit domineering and superior, and Mia finds her brother, Michael, very attractive, but she can’t tell Lilly that. Mia lives in New York City with her artist mother and their extremely overweight cat, Fat Louie. Also her mum is dating her algebra teacher, the one subject she is currently failing. Her father lives in Europe in a small country called Genovia, and for her first fourteen years, Mia has thought he was a rich politician there, but then she discovers that her father is actually the reigning monarch of Genovia, and in turn Mia is the Princess of Genovia. That is when her life is turned upside down, and she has to face reporters, her Grandmere’s princess lessons, and having a bodyguard tag along on her every move, even around school. She records her adventures in the journal her mother gave her in the hopes that she might express her feelings somewhere at least, even if she won’t tell her.
I actually really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining and funny, and I came to like Mia. Of course, I could hardly see Mia as an average teenager though, even before it is revealed that she is a princess. After all, her mother is a well-known artist, and she spends summers and Christmases with her father at her Grandmere’s chateau in France. She attends what appears to be an expensive private school and mingles with geniuses on a daily basis. Her best friend, Lilly, has her own public access show, which Mia helps to film, and Michael publishes his own webzine. That is hardly the life of an average teenager. And did it really come as such a surprise that her father was royalty? Where did Mia think all of that money came from, why does her Grandmere have before and after hour privileges to the shops in Genovia, why does her Grandmere’s chateau require a private airstrip, why doesn’t she spend her holidays at her father’s home? And why hasn’t she asked her father any of these questions? If you can just accept the premise that Mia believes herself to be a normal teenager, and that she really hadn’t asked herself any of those questions about her father, the story is quite enjoyable.
The Princess Diaries: Take Two by Meg Cabot, paperback, 213 pages, published by Macmillan Children’s books in 2001.
In the second book of the Princess Diaries, Mia has new problems to deal with. Her mum is getting married to her algebra teacher, whom she still refers to as Mr G, despite the impending certainty that he will soon be her stepfather. And her Grandmere has taken it upon herself to organise a most grandiose affair for the wedding, which Helen (Mia’s mother) will never agree to. Part of that included inviting Helen’s parents, whom she doesn’t get along with particularly well, all the way from Indiana, along with Mia’s cousin Hank. And if that isn’t bad enough, she has to cope with press interviews, and a secret admirer that she hopes is Michael, about which she still can’t talk to Lilly about it. Another enjoyable story about an unlikely teenage princess moving through the hazardous world of family, friends and high school.