The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 6, 2009

Book review: Princess grown up in final book

'Forever Princess'

By Meg Cabot

Reading the final book in a much-loved series is a lot like saying good-bye to a dear friend. It’s sad, but tinged with the hope that perhaps you’ll see each other again.

Sometimes I try to postpone the inevitable. I’ve picked up and put down “Breaking Dawn,” the last book in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, so many times that it’s getting embarrassing.

When I learned that Meg Cabot was winding down her popular “Princess Diaries” series with the tenth book, my first response was worthy of the sometimes overly dramatic Princess Mia: An anguished “NOOOO!!!!!”

But I soon got over myself. There was no way I was not reading “Forever Princess.”

I read all 383 pages in two sittings. If there is one thing I love about Cabot, besides her loopy sense of humor and non-conformist heroines, it’s that her books are very easy and enjoyable reads. Brain candy, if you will.

In “Forever Princess,” Mia is no longer an awkward 14-year-old struggling with math, impossible crushes on unavailable boys, and the newly-discovered knowledge that she’s the heir to the throne of Genovia. Her once-dreaded princess lessons with her sidecar-swilling, control freak of a grandmother have paid off, and she’s considerably more poised and polished these days.

Her life isn’t any less complicated, though. She’s about to graduate from high school, but can’t decide where to attend college. Her father is trying to get elected prime minister of Genovia, but losing in the polls to his cousin.

Her grandmother has planned an 18th birthday party for her, complete with celebrities. She and her former BFF Lilly still haven’t made up. And she’s also the only one among her friends who hasn’t “done it.”

To add to the fun, her first love, Michael Moscovitz, now a wealthy inventor, is back in New York.

His reappearance has made Mia realize she isn’t quite over him after all, which is a problem because she already has a boyfriend. It doesn’t help matters that said boyfriend is wrapped up in himself, or that Michael flirts like crazy with her and offers unwavering support for her dream of publishing a romance novel.

The usual antics ensue, and anyone who has read a Meg Cabot novel knows how “Forever Princess” will end. But getting there is the fun part, thanks to Mia and crew.

Her friends are as loony as ever: Tina Hakim Baba still has romance on the brain, and Lana Weinberger, a former enemy turned into a good friend, has been “tamed.” Lana gets in some of the book’s best lines. Among them is her suggested title for Mia’s novel — a title that is hilarious but not fit for print here.

(”Forever Princess” also features excerpts from Mia’s awesomely bad novel, titled “Ransom My Heart,” which she describes as “a humorous and moving romance about a young girl’s sexual awakening in the year 1291.” Needless to say, her grandmother is not amused.)

Although Mia occasionally slips into old patterns, she has grown up. Thanks to therapy and her grandmother’s tutelage, she’s more inclined to put on her princess face and confront situations that once would have made her cower. And her reaction to her boyfriend’s shady behavior is classic: “He really ought to have remembered that several of my ancestresses are known for strangling and/or chopping off the heads of their enemies.”

As in the previous “Princess” books, Mia continues to write obsessively in her journal, usually in the oddest of places, such as a French-fry strewn Applebee’s bathroom. (“Who eats French fries on the toilet? WHO??? Who eats ANYTHING on the toilet???? Excuse me, but gross, also, ew.”) This device has allowed the reader access to Mia’s mind and heart. To fans of the series, she has become a trusted friend.

I will miss reading new “Princess Diaries” books. But I remain secure in the knowledge that although it is time to say farewell to Mia, I can visit her again by rereading ten very funny, very charming books.

Lisa E. Brown is the administrative assistant at the Joplin Public Library.