Thursday, 18 June 2015

From the Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot: Review

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is a completely average twelve-year-old: average height, average weight, average brown hair of average length, average brown skin and average hazel eyes. The only things about her that aren't average are her name (too long and princess themed), her ability to draw animals (useful for her future career as a wildlife illustrator), and the fact that she is a half-orphan who has never met her father and is forced to live with her aunt and uncle (who treat her almost like their own kids, so she doesn't want to complain).
Then one completely average day, everything goes wrong: the most popular girl in school, Annabelle Jenkins, threatens to beat her up, the principal gives her a demerit, and she's knocked down at the bus stop . . .
Until a limo containing Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia pulls up to invite her to New York to finally meet her father, who promptly invites her to come live with him, Mia, Grandmère and her two fabulous poodles . . . .
Maybe Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison isn't so average after all!

Recommended age: 8-11

To be honest, I wasn't going to read this book. I LOVED The Princess Diaries and they were really the only "girly" (God I hate myself for using that term) series of books that I read when I was a pre-teen. I found Jacqueline Wilson much too serious and knew if I was going to read books with no magic and dragons then a Princess would just have to do.

Of course, being 21 now means that Meg Cabot's original Princess series has become a bit dated (who emails their friends anymore? How 2005) and so we don't really stock it much at work anymore; no matter how many hints I drop about how great they are.

So why was I reluctant to read this new book? I was afraid that I wouldn't like this new incarnation as much as I love the other ones in my childhood and so I left it. This is, until I realized that Meg Cabot was releasing a new book Royal Wedding in which Mia gets married and this new series was going to be linked into it..and so here we are.

It's 2015, we've had the obligatory movie adaption and the obligatory we–made–money–out–of–this–so–let's–make–another–one sequel and now we have this; Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess, the story of Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison, Mia's half sister who doesn't know she's a princess.  

Here goes

I kinda loved it

Sure, I wanted to love it but I was also skeptical; I knew I needed to look at it as just another book I had to sell and so I tried to put the past out of my mind and I still found it great. Meg Cabot still manages to create a fun story and interesting characters but has brought her ideas into a new generation. The email boxes from Mia's books have been replaced with text bubbles and Olivia's disdain at not being able to have a phone or laptop will speak to many I'm sure.

This book does what it's supposed to, it is very much an introductory novel to the series and so most of it is taken up with Olivia finding out about about her heritage and it alludes to other big events that will happen down the line. Because of this, besides the big reveal that happens very early in the book, it may be difficult to hook your kid onto the series straight away. The characters are great and the story is awesomely written but if you're looking for a huge amount of action straight off, this is a series for the long haul. I'm sure it will pay off though and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

On another level, it's great to see that we have a bit more representation in the book as The Princess Diaries was very much white orientated. Our protagonist is half African–American and her best friend is of Indian decent and so from the offset we have a more diverse character set and while they don't draw a huge amount of attention to it, there's a moment where some of the press wonder if she was hidden for so long because her father was ashamed that she was half–black but that is about 2 lines of the book and so is easy to miss. This could lead to some interesting story-lines as the series progresses but seems a bit serious to put in so early.

So overall, this is a great start to a new series of Princess books and I'm so happy to see a new one appealing to a younger group and I'll be throwing it at whoever even glances that way.

4/5 Stars