September 17, 2004

The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot

Last spring I went to an author signing/talk given by Tamora Pierce. She's been my daughter's favorite author for a couple years now and since I forced the kid to go on the class trip rather than allowing her to stay home and attend the talk, I felt compelled by maternal guilt to at least get the newest hardback autographed for her.

I was first struck by Ms Pierce's uncanny resemblance to my daughter's math teacher, a woman with infinite patience and fortitude, an ample bosom and a face like a bull dog. Pierce treated the, mostly, girls in the audience to an hour of honest talk about what writing is about, what publishing is like and where she gets her ideas from and her own incredibly sly sense of humor. She also discussed her respect for other author's YA books, particularly mentioning Meg Cabot as one whose book The Princess Diaries was gutted of all merit when made into a movie.

Now I kind of liked that movie. The image of Julie Andrews clumping across the doorway in imitation of her granddaughter was hilarious. My son, disdainful of anything resembling a chick flick, laughed out loud thru most of it though he wouldn’t admit it later. So if the movie is a gutted representation of a much better original and I like the movie, then perhaps I should find out what this book is about. Not to mention that it’s been selling like hotcakes and has been followed up by several sequels that are selling like hotcakes. So I read it.

It was, well, ok. The premise of the book is that Mia Thermopolis finds out that her father, conveniently dead in the movie, is actually King of a small city-state sort of like Monaco rather than the wealthy man involved in politics that she has always been led to believe by her mother. Not only is he King, but he has been rendered unable to produce more off spring by a form of testicular cancer, now making Mia, his love child from his college days, the heir to the throne. And Grand-mere, the dragon who takes care of her summers at the little chateau in France, will be responsible for training her for the throne. Mia is traumatized. And to top it off, her mother is dating her Algebra teacher, the only subject in school she's failing.

The book was cutesie. Aside from some very unnecessary but not overt jokes about her father's, um, testicular issues, most of the humor struck me as the type an adolescent kid would enjoy. There's a lot of emphasis on bad hair, clothes, what shoes to wear and that sort of thing. The writing is a masterpiece in girl speak. Cabot's got the, like, you know, bad, um, like, conversational style, the, like, girls seem to use these days. It's not something I'm sure I want my daughter to imitate but it was the only really objectionable thing in the book. It's kind of nice little dessert book, something light and not too heavy.

Posted by Deb English at September 17, 2004 07:57 PM