Friday 2 May 2014

#CBR6 Book 39: "The Princess Diaries" by Meg Cabot

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Mia Thermopolis hates being one of the tallest freshmen in school, and she's flunking algebra. The dreamiest boy in school is dating the evil witch that constantly makes Mia's life difficult, and now she has to deal with the fact that her algebra teacher asked her mother out. And her mother accepted! Her mother gives her a diary into which she can write down her thoughts and feelings, and after some misgivings, Mia starts doing just that.

To begin with, her worries are just the ones outlined above. Then her father, who she always knew was a rich and important person from the small European principality of Genovia arrives in New York, and springs the news on her that he is indeed a prince, and as he can no longer father children, Mia is his only heir. He wants to take her back to Genovia, but Mia refuses. They agree that she can finish her time at her New York high school, but needs to go through princess training with her grandmother.

Now Mia has barely any free time. When she's not at school or being tutored in algebra, she has to hang out with her grandmother, who criticises everything she does, from the way she dresses, to her posture, the way she speaks, walks and eats. Mia doesn't want to tell her best friend Lilly what is going on, which means they have a massive falling out, and Lilly refuses to speak to her anymore. Then the news about Mia's true heritage is leaked to the press, not making things better. To top it all off, even being a princess, Mia doesn't have a date to the Cultural Diversity dance.

Having seen the movie years ago, and thought it was cute, I added this to my TBR list and promptly forgot about it. Then "princess" was a monthly keyword for April and I remembered that I still hadn't read the book. I was surprised at how different the book is from the movie, to the point where I wonder if the film is based on more of the books in the series (a quick browse on Wikipedia suggests that this is not so). Although I think the film is perfectly decent, I think, as with another Anne Hathaway-movie based on a book, Ella Enchanted, I prefer the book. For one thing, I liked the character of Mia's father quite a bit, and he's dead in the movie. I also really liked Mia's friend Tina Hakim-Baba (and her fondness for terrible teen romances), who didn't appear in the film at all. Of course, the movie had the divine Julie Andrews as Mia's grand-mére, but having seen the film first, I kept picturing her in my head as I read the book.

Even though Mia is blond in the book, I couldn't keep from picturing her as a brunette because of Anne Hathaway. My Wiki-research also revealed to me that The Princess Diaries was Hathaway's debut film, which was a fun bit of trivia I hadn't realised before. The diary format is a good one for really getting to know a character, and Mia is clearly a sweet girl. I sometimes found her mother's artistic temperament and flakiness a bit annoying, but at the same time, the relationship between Mia and her mum in many ways reminded me of Rory and Lorelai Gilmore, which isn't a bad thing at all.

While the book was fun enough, I still haven't made up my mind if I want to read the rest of the series. There are so many shiny and exciting books out there vying for my attention. If I find any of the books on sale in the future, though, I won't rule it out.

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