After seeing the movie The Princess Diaries when I was 15, I was so excited when I saw the books in stores that I grabbed them up. Mia was my age, awkward about the same things as me, struggled to seem attractive, and is a secret princess. AND the nerdy, nice, musician, played by the gorgeous Robert Schwartzman, had a huge crush on her. I liked to pretend that beneath my frizzy, unruly hair and terrible skin, maybe I could be a Mia Thermopolis. I finished the first book within a few days and quickly went on to the second. I believe the movie combined elements from the first and second books. In the first book, which I reviewed in March, Mia finds out she’s a princess when her father’s battle with testicular cancer leaves him unable to sire any more children. Mia hides the secret from her best friend, Lilly, who gets mad when Mia spends more time with her paternal grandmother. What Lilly doesn’t realize is Mia is getting Princess Lessons from Grandmère and would like nothing more than to go back to her normal life. When Mia’s secret is exposed, she struggles with the reactions from those closest to her as well as the popular kids in school, who suddenly look at Mia with different eyes.
I honestly don’t remember what happens in the second book at all. I think Mia’s mom’s relationship with the math teacher gets more serious, but beyond that…I don’t recall. More of Mia sucking at math and worrying about self-actualizing, I guess.
Teenage Rating: 4 out of 5 tiaras
Mia Thermopolis thought she had it bad being a tall, flat-chested, unpopular freshman who just found out she’s the princess of Genovia. How will she ever find a popular boyfriend with all that going for her? Well, Mia underestimated just how bad things could get. Her mom got knocked up by Mr. Gianini, Mia’s algebra teacher. AND Grandmère wants Mia to be interviewed by Beverly Bellerieve on TwentyFour/Seven, the highest rated prime time news show in the country. AND she only has one week to prepare. Throw in a fluctuating fever and a mysterious love letter, and Mia has more on her plate than I do at Thanksgiving dinner. When her awkwardness during the interview causes her to blurt out more than she should about her family life, Mia’s stuck feeling guilty that Grandmère is now planning a huge wedding her hippie mom doesn’t want. Also, Lilly feels betrayed that Mia went back on her promise to give Lilly her first interview on Lilly Tells It Like It Is. Can Mia fix her flubs and get Michael Moscowitz to admit he’s her secret admirer?
Princess in the Spotlight is similar to The Princess Diaries, except that now in addition to adjusting to being a Princess, Mia has to cope with her family life being turned upside down. She finally fully realizes her crush on Michael and spends a lot of the book pining over him. Most of the books in this series have the same formula: Mia messes up because she’s worried about messing up, she pines over a boy, Grandmère is annoying, and Mia stresses over her looks. It can get repetitive, but what I love about these books is Mia’s voice. Meg Cabot has perfectly captured the teenage thought process as well as how those thoughts inform teen’s actions. So much of being a teenager is feeling weird and awkward and wondering how much other people notice how weird and awkward you are. You devote half your time to trying to rein in your awkwardness, which only makes you more awkward in the end. Moreover, teens often make poor choices because of how image-obsessed they are, and how little life experience they have. Mia tries desperately to behave in a way she thinks will please people or make her look good, not realizing she doesn’t have to try so hard. All of her over-the-top actions send her into disastrous situations. At least we see Mia finally getting a boost of confidence when her secret admirer makes her realize she is desirable because of her caring personality.
I love that this series doesn’t only focus on Mia’s relationships with boys, but also explores the dynamics of teenage friendships. Mia and Lilly’s friendship seems to be fraught with drama in every book. Unlike other YA novels, it’s not boy drama, but the usual real-life friend drama of feeling unappreciated, betrayed, or left out. Lilly is used to being the center of Mia’s universe and feels overshadowed by Mia’s new duties as a princess. Their relationship is given as much attention as the other aspects of Mia’s life, and it’s important to depict realistic best friendships in YA literature to show readers that their friendship foibles are normal.
This installment of Mia’s diaries had the same positive attributes as the previous novel, but wasn’t different enough to stand out.
Adulthood Rating: 3 out of 5 pink bridesmaid dresses