Written by Meg Cabot
Published by Harper Collins
The Princess series is one of the most charming, endearing series to appear on the young adult scene for several years. The heroine, Mia Thermopolis, is the princess of a small, fictional European country modeled on Monaco, called Genovia. In every other respect, however, Mia is normal, and therein lies the magic of the series. Mia is truly one of the most likable heroines around these days, especially in recent years full of double-crossing divas and the recent clichÃ© of teen witch. As a supposed fictional diary, high school reads just like it really was, only better.
In this volume, Mia’s beloved Michael has graduated and left Mia to the tender mercies of Lana and high school. He may just be across town, but anyone who has had to step into school the first day after all your friends are gone knows how she feels. Luckily, Mia still has Tina, Lilly, and even Kenny to get her through.
This novel could be summed up as Mia versus the World: we get Mia vs. Lana, Mia vs. Geometry, Mia vs. Neglectful Mothers, Mia vs. the EU, Mia vs. her English teacher, and (dum, dum, DUMMMMM) Mia vs. sexuality. We also get a very intriguing digression of sorts, allowing a lovely diatribe from Mia, on the value of pop culture versus that of high culture. Anyone who has ever wanted to write an essay on “The Relationship of Violence with Technocracy in Akira” will cheer. Today’s pop culture, after all, is tomorrow’s high culture; remember that Dickens, Chaucer, Austin, and other college favorites were all considered lowbrow in their time. Though I have to say, Mia…Britney Spears? Egad.
The beauty of this series, and of this installment specifically, is that it is genuinely quite funny. Cabot has a keen and insightful sense of humor, as well as a willingness to insert social commentary and topical pop culture awareness into her book. Hopefully, these timely additions will not hurt the book’s chances to be as ageless and perennial as it deserves to be. Especially brilliant moments include the lists Mia makes of things to remind her mother about regarding care for baby Rocky, and the notes Mia makes about the nonsensical “logic” of geometry. Her sincerity and her humanity come across in spades.
The only fly in the princess ointment is Mia’s best friend, Lilly. Lilly is, quite bluntly, a horrible friend and a worse person. She’s cruel, selfish, arrogant in the extreme, and has no apparent redeeming qualities at all. Her one brief crying jag is barely enough to stir pity from the readers, and even then it is not at all clear why even someone as naÃ¯ve and good-hearted as Mia puts up with her other than habit. I dearly hope Cabot scales back on Lilly’s sharpness in the next book. Mia may be who we all want to be, but Lilly is who we all fear we really are.
In short, all girls in the target audience should read Princess in Training, but in addition, adult women will love it as well. I even suspect a large number of teen and adult men would love the humor, not to mention the revenge of the nerds in the later parts of the book. The amusing part is that non-Americans who want an encapsulation of what American high school is like (with certain, obvious fantasy-element caveats) would be well-served by this book, as well. Mia deserves not only your love, but also your dollars and your time.