I started reading Meg Cabot’s popular Princess Diaries series when it was first published in 2000 — and I was fifteen! Through high school and college graduations, full- and part-time jobs begun and ended, a few broken hearts and a whole lot of friendships renewed and lost, I’ve stuck it out with Mia Thermopolis on her never-ending quest in wooing Michael Moscovitz, taming her unruly “triange-shaped” hair, achieving self-actualization and, ultimately, rising to power as princess of Genovia (a small, fictional European nation). Princess Amelia has nursed more than a few of her own heartbreaks, too, and it’s with a bit of sadness that I finished Cabot’s Princess Diaries, Volume X: Forever Princess, the tenth and final book in the series.
First, let me preface my review with the fact that plenty of spoilers will probably abound. I’m not sure if I can really write about my love of this book without blowing a few secrets!
A little background, especially if you’ve seen the popular film of the same name starring Anne Hathaway (which was awesome, but didn’t really parallel the book): Mia Thermopolis was just like another other teenage girl in New York City, living with her artistic mother and beloved chubster cat Fat Louie when, upon hearing of her father’s cancer scare, she was informed by her mysterious (and annoying) grandmother that she is, in fact, heir to the principality of Genovia. Her father, Prince Phillipe, is the son of the reigning monarch — Grandmere.
Mia’s having a hard enough time surviving life as a gangly, awkward high school student to actually worry about being a princess — but, much to her mother’s dismay, the truth comes out. Enter the usual angst of “oh my God, Mom and Dad, you’ve been lying to me all these years!” and you have the first book or two. Mia undergoes a serious transformation, becomes slightly more glamorous, gets into arguments with her free-spirited (and highly opinionated) best friend Lilly and tries to somehow get the attention of Lilly’s older brother, Michael.
I won’t further bore you with summaries of past books, though I loved all of them! By the time we reach Forever Princess, my most recent read, Mia is about to turn eighteen; graduate from high school; attend the senior prom; figure out whether or not she’s ready to Do It with J.P., her boyfriend of two years; get over her ex-boyfriend and first love, Michael, who has suddenly returned from a medical sabbatical in Japan; and actually choose a college to attend next year.
And, oh yeah — prepare for her official duties as princess of a small country.
I love, love, love these books. They are, as the title suggests, Mia’s personal “diaries” — her frantic scribblings about all of the chaos erupting in her life (and there’s always chaos). I love that they feel current and in-the-moment, and that we feel, as readers, that we’ve literally stumbled across her personal journals. There’s nothing pretentious about these books; they’re completely devoid of any self-consciousness, too. They’re just pure, unadulterated fun — and books in which I totally lose myself.
In this, the tenth installment of Mia’s adventures, she has definitely grown up — and the world around her has totally changed, too. Gone are the “handwritten” notes passed between Shameeka, Tina, Mia, Lilly and Lana — they’re all texting from their cell phones and BlackBerries now. The ninth book in the series chronicles her life as a sophomore, and now we’re dropped right into the end of her senior year. Though it surprised me a bit at first, this absolutely worked for me. While Cabot’s audience has aged considerably since the series began, Mia herself had not. She’s finally catching up with us and dealing with very relatable issues: choosing a profession, a home, a lover. Along that vein, the books absolutely feel real to me. I’ve always related to Mia’s plight and adventures, and I ran through this 400-page book in a little more than a day. It had wide margins, mind you, but with the exception of the Harry Potter and Twilight books, hardly anything is able to keep my prolonged, obsessive attention for that long.
As Mia makes decisions regarding her relationships, both romantic and familial, writes a romance novel (Ransom My Heart — smokin’!) and begins to plot out the rest of her life, I was right there with her. I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like about this book, and about the way the series ended . . . Cabot did a masterful job. Though life-long best friends, Lilly and Mia still had to take some time apart to realize how — and why — they’d been depending on each other, and Mia needed to spend time in a relationship with someone else to realize how much she truly loved Michael. His reappearance in the novel was like Edward showing up in New Moon — you knew it was coming, but it still took your breath away when it finally did! I was excited. I laughed and, yes, I cried.
And in the final chapter of our journey with her, Mia is all grown up — and I guess I’m getting there, too. But we sure had a heck of a run together. By the end of Forever Princess, I was definitely teary-eyed — she made the right choices. I couldn’t ask for anything more!
5 out of 5!