This is a wry, clever novel which captures perfectly the utter nonsense, melodrama, and urgency of being a 14 year-old girl.
Basic premise: Mia Thermopolis, the illegitimate daughter of a high-spirited artist and cancer-surviving (now impotent) royal prince, learns of her heritage when it becomes clear that her father can produce no further heirs. She reacts badly, as most teenagers do when major life changes are forced upon them. Faced with new celeb status, an impatient, Galois-smoking, Sidecar-drinking Francophone grandmother determined to make her A Proper Princess, and a bodyguard who shadows her every move, Mia has to pull it together if she wants to embrace her heritage and save the whales.
I loved the absurdity of this book. Mia may have no idea how funny she is, but Meg Cabot sure does, causing Mia's narration to be unconsciously hilarious. The best thing, though, is that Cabot has captured the bizarre, focused genius of teens.
Although it wasn't too
many years ago that I was a teen myself, I didn't appreciate teenagers until I began working with them. So many teenagers are brilliant and determined, as well as being determined to completely ignore that side of themselves. When teens decide to learn things -- and they have to actively decide -- many have a very coherent logic strung together from the information they have. In fact, a lot of misunderstandings seem to stem from faulty information ("I heard somewhere that this is the case, therefore it is true and I cannot be convinced otherwise!") rather than an unwillingness to learn. With Mia, it's eggs. In a throwaway line, Mia discusses her mother making omlettes with Egg Beaters instead of real eggs. While she's very pleased with her mother's attempt to adhere to her dietary restrictions, she decided upon ovo-lacto vegetarianism once she learned that eggs are unfertilized, and that no baby chicks would be murdered to make her breakfast. This is an example of a teen filtering information, researching things that are important to her, and expecting the world to change around her because she has been told to be the change she wants to see in the world.
Mia is a devout anti-fur, vegetarian, wannabe environmental activist. When she is told that she has to become a princess, she announces that she is going to graduate, work for Greenpeace, and save the baby seals (this scene is hilarious). She refuses to compromise on her ethics, and nothing will convince her otherwise, whether it is pressure from a cute guy or her Grandmere's snide commentary.
I love this girl.
It's not just that I love seeing vegetarians show up in books (it's very nice when they're not pitching hissy fits constantly). This is a girl who decides that if she has to have all this press coverage, she'll just wear all of her best Greenpeace buttons so that at least someone benefits from the publicity. This is the person I want to see as the monarch of a small country. She's shallow and superficial a lot of the time, but so are most 14 year-olds, and her vapidness is nicely balanced with an honest wish to save the world and help her friends (even while she's continually exasperated that she has to take Algebra).
Light, fun, and a pleasure to read.