The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

This is a review of the audiobook as read by Anne Hathaway.

 

SUMMARY

Mia Thermopolis’ extraordinarily ordinary American teenage world is thrown upside down when she finds out she is the one and only heir and Princess to the throne of Genovia, a small but rich country bordering France.


WORLDBUILDING

I have to say, I know Genovia’s totally fake – I mean, what country can afford not to tax its citizens because it can rely on the money it makes from tourism to fix repair its infrastructure and fund its schools and emergency services and still have enough leftover to make the crown prince worth $300M – which, back in the 90s when this was written, was A LOT of money. But still, I like the fantasy of a non-taxing country, and I like that the national language is French, and how Mia’s father and grandmother still have these thick French accents. I even buy Mia’s weird high school Albert Einstein High and her rivalry with popular girl Lana Weinburger and her insane crush on Josh Richter. What can I say, her voice is really authentic for a teenage girl who worries that she’s too tall and still flat-chested and not pretty enough to be a princess.


CHARACTERS + RELATIONSHIPS

Even though Mia went through a princess makeover and I obviously never have, there were moments when I really identified with her. Being a teenager is hard enough without everyone wanting to control you. There was something sympathetic to the way Mia was treated by everyone, including her best friend Lily, that brought back memories of my own high school experience, which I suppose is the whole point of a book like this.

The one thing I was annoyed about was that Mia had this massive crush on Josh Richter while at the same time being completely unaware of her own feelings towards Michael Moscowitz. And her relationship with Grandmere was so completely the opposite of the relationship portrayed in the films that I almost felt tricked or betrayed.


WHAT WORKED/DIDN’T WORK

Oh Mia… I really don’t know of any other book when I have loathed the main character so much due to her unending stupidity and ignorance and then really come around the root for her in the final chapters. It’s just that Mia was SO DUMB, she’d written an essay on Genovia, visited the country multiple times where she would catch limos and go shopping after hours with Grandmere and basically be treated like a princess, and even seen a picture of the Crown Prince in the encyclopaedia (the what? Generation Me kids all chorus), but had no idea he was her dad! At least in the film adaptation her dad had died and she was oblivious to there being a small wealthy country called Genovia hanging on to one of France’s borders.

Anne Hathaway narrating this audiobook was all kinds of perfection. I just couldn’t get over that the actress from the films was reading the books the films inspired, because I do know that later on in the series (which I haven’t read, only #11, Royal wedding, which inspired me to start reading this series from the start) Mia does have films made based on her life, and I think Hathaway plays Mia in the book-film version as well… I just really kind of love Anne Hathaway. Her emotional response to the text was spot on, and I think it’s what made this book more enjoyable that it probably would have been if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook.


OVERALL

Although the books is substantially different to he film (and inferior, in my opinion), it was still good to finally read the source material – or have it read to me by the magnificent Anne Hathaway, who is basically perfection. Take it or leave it, if you’ve seen the film you’re not missing much.