Why yes, I am a decade behind on this book. And no, I don’t have a good reason for waiting so long to read it. I also have to admit this was my first foray into the realm that is Meg Cabot. I’ve decided it won’t be my last.
I don’t particularly feel the need to do a plot recap for you. If you don’t know the plot of The Princess Diaries, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been living under. I had been warned that the book was very different from the movie. This was certainly not a turn-off for me. I mean, I love the movie (who wouldn’t want Julie Andrews to be their royal grandmother, right?) but I am, as always, fascinated by the process of adaptation. I wanted to know how different it is.
In all honesty, I expected it to be more different. Disney stuck fairly close to key plot incidents for this first half of the movie’s story. The biggest thing that threw me off was the original the story being in New York. I love that the movie is set in San Francisco, and that was a difficult adjustment for me. That and the fact that Grandmère isn’t as lovable as Julie Andrews. Actually, the difference I was able to swallow the easiest was that dad was still alive and well, but mostly because I really enjoyed the mom and dad interaction. As a result, though, the focus of the film and the book are very different, and I like how the same content, when skewed in just certain ways, changes the overall feel and—to a degree—message of a story. (I could complete change my mind on this after I finish the next couple of books.)
Style wise, this was the first diary-style book I’ve read in ages. It took some getting used to, and there were places that Mia’s writing seemed a little over the top; were I to look back on my journal in high school (which I also kept fairly regularly, thank you) I was a lot less sparse with the !!!!!!!!! and ?????????? and CAPSLOCK OMG. But I did have it; I was still a teenager 😉 though admittedly no parent ever showed up and told me I was princess. All the same, the overabundance of those did occasionally distract from the story.
Overall, I like the book, very much. I like that the book rejects the cliché Disney-type elements (and even though the film has some Disney warm fuzzies, it remains pretty grounded). I like how close it stays to high school life. As my roommate pointed out, this is a case of a book that had I read it when it originally came out—when I was a 14-year-old—it would’ve probably been a little too close to home then. To look back on high school and be grateful I’m no longer stuck in that social atmosphere, it’s a lot more fun.
And makes me very glad I’m not in high school anymore. Or a princess.
Rating: 4 stars