The Princess Diaries
A book review for parents
This first pre-teen/teen chick-lit book in the "Princess Diaries" by Meg Cabot is published by HarperCollins Publishers.
The Princess Diaries is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Mia Thermopolis is a high school freshman, content living in Manhattan, N.Y., with her artist mother. Then her European playboy father and aristocratic Grandmére reveal a shocking secret: Mia is the princess of a country called Genovia. As Mia struggles to maintain her friendships, deal with her mom's relationship with her algebra teacher and get the attention of Josh Richter, Grandmére and Mia's father insist upon turning her into royalty by giving princess lessons. The reluctant princess garners attention from the media and Josh, but learns she must balance her old life with her new royal responsibilities.
Mia prays once, "Oh God, if You really do exist . . ." She refuses to go to church and "pray to a God who would allow rain forests to be destroyed." Mia also mentions admiring Madonna because she's not afraid to offend Christians, the pope or other people who are "not open-minded."
Mia's mom is a stereotypical flighty artist. Mia has to handle responsibilities like paying bills and buying groceries. Her mom lies to her about aspects of her relationship with Mr. Gianini, and Mia's philandering father seems to have little patience with Mia's emotions and personal desires. He's angry and temperamental, and Grandmére has him on a short leash. Although Grandmére is demanding and authoritarian toward everyone, she becomes something of an ally for Mia in the end.
Other Belief Systems
Mia is a staunch vegetarian and Greenpeace supporter with many liberal political views, those of her mother and friend Lilly. She notes that her mom has been stressed since her last boyfriend turned out to be a Republican. Mia's mom has a collection of wooden fertility goddesses.
Mia frequently uses God's name in vain. A few other profanities (a-- and d--n) also appear once.
Mia's mom is sleeping with Mia's teacher, and Mia and Lilly discuss the conditions under which they would "put out" for Josh. Mia acknowledges the seriousness of losing her virginity but doesn't have qualms about premarital sex. She is obsessed with her small chest size, says she wishes Josh would sexually harass her and is disappointed that the only guy who has ever "felt her up" was a blind guy. Josh kisses Mia for the media's sake, and Mia frequently mentions how Mr. Gianini is probably putting his tongue in her mother's mouth. Lilly's parents attend a fundraiser for homosexual children of holocaust survivors, and Mia wonders what Grandmére will do when she encounters the homosexuals in Mia's neighborhood.
IRA/CBC Young Adult Choice, ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and more.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Mia gets to experience things many young women only dream about — dating the most popular boy in school, being made over (complete with designer hair, makeup and clothing) and discovering she is royalty.
Which of these things do you dream about?
- What do you like best about Mia — her unpretentious attitude, desire to help others, adolescent imperfections or something else?
- Mia cheats on a test, demonstrates a bit of remorse and lies to her friends and family with little regret. Her intentions were usually good.
Does this make her actions OK?
Think about one of those situations. What could she have done instead?
- High school students use and discuss drugs and alcohol. Mia doesn’t use them because she cares for her body.
How are Mia’s reasons for not doing drugs or drinking alcohol similar to or different from yours?
- What is God's plan for sex and purity?
How is this similar to or different from what Mia believes?
- Who in this story stood up for the underdog?
How did this action affect the story?
How would your doing this affect a situation in your life?
- Mia took quite a few stands.
What stands do you take?
How do you assert yourself?
- Mia learned more about friendship.
Why is it important to choose friends wisely?
Note: The film adaptation (which received a favorable review from Plugged In) should not be confused with the more "mature" content of the book.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.