This chick lit mystery is the first book in the "Scandia" series by Kirsten Boie and is published by Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
The Princess Plot is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
When 14-year-old Jenna auditions for a movie, she's amazed to win the role as the princess of a country called Scandia. She's even more surprised when she texts her mom — an over-protective etiquette instructor who finds most movies "vulgar" — and her mom urges her to leave with the producers right away. The producers fly Jenna to Scandia, where she's housed in a palace. She's instructed to test her acting skills by standing in for Scandia's real princess, Malena, at a birthday party. Seeing a picture of the princess, Jenna discovers she looks surprisingly like the royal girl, who has just lost her father, the king, to an unexpected heart attack.
Jenna meets the royal uncle, Norlin, and the movie "director," Bolstrom, and soon realizes something isn't right. Not only is there no movie, but she's been brought to Scandia to stand in for the princess so the country won't realize Malena has run away. When Scandian rebels (including Malena) kidnap Jenna, she learns that Norlin and Bolstrom are plotting to produce conflict, if not war, between the wealthy southern Scandians and the poor northerners. The king had been working for peace and equality between the two regions, so the girls begin to suspect foul play concerning the king's death.
During her time with the rebels, Jenna learns why she so strongly resembles the princess. The king had a twin sister who was married to Norlin. She ran away from Scandia because Norlin's political agenda frightened her, and she wasn't permitted to divorce him. The twin was Jenna's mom, and Norlin is Jenna's father.
Melena and the other rebels convince Jenna that she alone can save Scandia by returning to Norlin and pretending she's terrified by the rebels and their actions. They believe Jenna may be able to learn where the king — whom they're convinced is alive — is hidden. Though Norlin's staff discovers Jenna's plan, she's able to escape and help the rebels find the king. Norlin and his people flee the country, and the reunited royal family vows to bring peace and prosperity to Scandia.
A minor character who is afraid she'll be killed offers up a prayer. Mom says, "Thank God!" when she thinks she's found Jenna.
Jenna's mother shows little affection toward her daughter and allows her little freedom. Jenna later learns Mom is hiding them from the Scandian government. Mom left the country when she saw how ambition had changed her husband and she realized he'd only married her because she was a princess. Norlin, a northern Scandian once sympathetic to the rebels, allowed wealth and power to alter his politics. He still doesn't want to kill people, but he supports war so he won't lose his status. He loves his daughter (Jenna) and eventually allows her to escape. The king cares about the impoverished, hard-working northerners and tries to bring equal rights to all Scandians.
An onlooker at the king's funeral says the royal family has nothing but bad luck, and she suspects there's a curse on the family. Her husband replies that when people encounter trouble, they've generally brought it on themselves. A rebel says the king's death was bad luck for the north, but good luck for the prosperous south because it would now be able to retain all their wealth. Nahira, the rebel leader, says it would take a huge stroke of luck to find the kidnapped king. Jenna remembers learning how the dinosaurs were wiped out when a meteorite struck the earth millions of years ago.
The words d--nation, heck, butt and OMG appear a time or two. The angry northern Scandians often shout obscenities at TV cameras, but no actual curse words appear in the text.
The rebels concoct a story for Jenna to tell Norlin about her escape from them. She's supposed to say that one of the young rebels pulled her out of bed, kissed her and tore at her clothes, at which point she was able to run out through an open door and flee into the forest.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
Alcohol use: After mom has some wine, she accidentally offers Jenna information about Norlin. Norlin deals with his many conflicting feeling and opinions by drinking a lot of cognac. Norlin's adviser, Bolstrom, drinks wine with a meal.
Lying: Most of the characters lie extensively to cover up their plots to save or destroy Scandia. Jenna prides herself on honesty throughout most of the book. The exception is when she concocts a family tree for a class project because she knows nothing about her real family. In the end, the only way Scandia can avoid war is if Jenna can convincingly lie to her father about being held against her will and hurt by the rebels.
Smoking: A farmer pulls out some tobacco and rolls himself a cigarette. One of the rebels helping Jenna and Malena smokes a cigarette.
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.