Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, March 16, 2012

"The Princess Diaries" by Meg Cabot

I judged this book by the Disney movie and thought it would be an appropriate read for Bookworm Child (who is eight). Well, while it wasn't completely inappropriate for her, there were a few things that surprised me; I would have thought twice about passing this book along to BC if I'd known about them. There's nothing too horribly graphic (Mia mentions other people kissing via "tongues down each other's throats", and sees her Algebra teacher in his boxer shorts one morning because he is sleeping with Mia's mother. Hmmm. Not to mention the fact that because of this book I had to define the word "testicle" for Bookworm Child. Sure, it was in the context of testicular cancer, but still.) I suppose if I'd noticed it was published by Harper Teen I might have had a clue. Anyway, it's nowhere near as bad as some of the books my mom let me read when I was BC's age, and (though some would dispute this point) I turned out OK.

So, beyond the context of minor age-inappropriateness for my daughter, I had fun with this book. It's the story of Totally Average (if a bit too tall and flat-chested) Mia Thermopolis, a freshman in high school in New York City who lives a Totally Normal life until she finds out that she's next in line to rule the country of Genovia. Cue chaos as the reluctant princess resists her new role. As if a fourteen-year-old's life isn't difficult enough, just imagine how much worse it would be if you had to take Princess Lessons from your martinet Grandmère.

I could be wrong, but I'd like to call this book a forerunner in the current spate of diaries-as-books (see Wimpy Kids and Dorks. Samuel Pepys doesn't count, since I'm talking fiction). Bookworm Child actually mentioned her disappointment that the font in these books doesn't look like handwriting, but I guess when you're breaking new ground you can't be faulted for failing to overturn every convention.

I don't plan to continue with this series. When Bookworm Child asked why, my reply was that there were just so many other books I want to read. But if I ever reach a point where I've read All The Books, I won't mind revisiting Princess Mia. Even though she doesn't like Anne of Green Gables! (I have grave doubts about anyone who doesn't like Anne.)


Enbrethiliel said...


I raise my eyebrows a little at Mia's indifference to Anne Shirley, given that the stories about Anne will be read and loved long after all the Princess Diaries books have become a "Do You Remember the Noughties?" footnote.

There's an element of Sue-ness to Mia that I also think is a huge cop out. As you point out, she is totally ordinary, and only the extraordinariness of her situation makes her story even halfway interesting. (I could draw another contrast to Anne Shirley here!) I think Meg Cabot cut a lot of characterisation corners when putting Mia together.

Lesa said...

What? Doesn't like Anne? Is that even possible? How could an author write such a thing and expect to be taken seriously?

I've never read this book but I really liked the movie. Very smart of the screenwriters to leave out the Anne bit.

We've had the same 'too mature' problem with tv shows lately-- you don't really realize how explicit shows are nowadays till you watch them with a 6 yr old.

Vintage Reading said...

My daughters adored the film when they were about nine or ten but I never could get them to read them books - I have difficulty getting them to read books at all now - they don't take after me! Actually I think they made two films and both were rather sweet.

Kerry Kenney said...

I followed your link to "books my mom let me read" and I have to confess, I read Teenage Runaway too! I had no idea that the author wrote other books. I of course LOVED it. Right along with Flowers in the Attic, I Never Promised you a Rose Garden. Holy Flashback. I'm tempted to buy these old books as they are only a penny. But I won't! Now I can make a pinterest board out of the titles. Even better. BTW. Some of LM Montgomery's books are available for free on Kindle. Love your blog. I'm nerdily reading through your posts.

Kathy said...

Enbrethiliel and Lesa--I *totally* agree about the Anne stuff. I'm still a bit bemused by that aspect of Mia's character.

VR--yep, they've made two movies, and I bought them both . . .

Kerry--I was nerdily happy to hear you loved my blog and were munching your way through my posts. :) I hope you enjoyed your meanderings.

suggested Affordable Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer, view website... said...

I read this book when I was younger like a third grader and I understood none of it now reading this in seventh grade it makes more sense. I absolutely love this book it is just so funny how Mia goes thru this phase of figuring out who she really is.

Kathy said...

I'm glad it made more sense to you the 2nd time around. It's a fun book!