Ninth Key by Meg Cabot: B

From the back cover:
Mediator Susannah Simon is a go-between for ghosts and the living. No hand-holder, this teenager is tough on the spirits who need her help. When the ghost of a murdered woman wakes Suze up one night to insist that she deliver a strange message, the 16-year-old just wants to get rid of her. But the ghost won’t give up.

Soon Suze is looking for a wealthy man called Red, who has an aversion to sunlight. When she finally meets him, he keeps staring at her neck, and Suze sees big trouble. Although he’s the father of the hottest boy in her class, he just might be a vampire.

I didn’t like this as much as Shadowland. Suze wasn’t as amusing and snarky. Instead, she suddenly became obsessed with her lack of a boyfriend and we got a lot more info on the topic of boys and the state of their abs.

As an additional bonus, there was an extremely irritating and stupid continuity error! Suze mentioned a couple times that no boy has ever asked her out. Except one just did in the last book, which took place a mere week before! I think Meg Cabot cranks out too many books to actually remember the specifics of what happened in each one.

The plot was more ambitious this time, and included a couple of twists I didn’t expect. These would’ve been more successful if the outcomes of the twists hadn’t been immediately obvious to me. I also couldn’t help from wanting to superimpose Buffy arcs upon this story, like Suze letting her friends in on the secret, or becoming more serious about her job.

All of these things aside, it was still pretty good and was a quick read. At least I still liked all of the Suze/Jesse interaction. Perhaps this is just a sophomore slump and the others in the series will be better.

Shadowland by Meg Cabot: A

From the back cover:
Sixteen-year-old Susannah Simon is a mediator who can see and speak with ghosts. As a bridge between the living and the dead, she gets called on to help troubled ghosts take care of unfinished business. Soon after she and her mother move from New York City to sunny California, Suze meets the sexiest boy she’s ever seen. But there are two problems: he’s a ghost, and he’s haunting her room.

This was YA supernatural fluff and I totally adored it! There isn’t actually much of a plot aside from one particularly hateful ghost wanting revenge on an ex, but it’s fun anyway. Cabot borrows heavily from the premise for Buffy and I suppose I should be annoyed by that, but it reads more like an homage than a rip-off.

The similarities:
* Susannah (a little Buffyish in character, but with the super snark of Veronica Mars—I obviously like her quite a bit!) has a supernatural ability/job that she did not ask for and cannot relinquish.
* This ability has gotten her into some trouble in her old town, and her mom is hopeful that moving to a new place, in the middle of her sophomore year, will be a fresh start.
* There’s an adult staffer at her new high school who knows what she is and can give some advice.
* The popular kids make overtures towards her, but she seems more inclined to hang with the “losers”—specifically one guy and one girl. The guy (quippy, but not as funny as Xander) has a crush on Susannah and is clearly oblivious to the feelings that the other girl (nothing like Willow, alas) has for him.
* Susannah meets a foxy dead guy who has been around for over a century and who helps her out when fighting the aforementioned hateful ghost.

Shadowland reads kind of like a pilot episode. It sets the theme, the mythology, and the characters without delving too deeply into any of those categories. At this point, I sort of expect the series to compare to Buffy’s first season without approaching the impact of the latter half of season two. I would be highly (pleasantly) surprised if Cabot managed to pull off something like that.

Sweet Sixteen Princess by Meg Cabot: B+

From the inside flap:
Mia doesn’t always have the best luck with parties, so even though it’s her sweet sixteenth, she doesn’t want a birthday bash. As usual, Grandmere has other ideas, and thinks a reality TV special is just the thing in order to celebrate royally. The whole scheme smacks of Lilly’s doing—Lilly, whose own TV show is still only limited to local cable viewers.

Will Mia be able to stop Grandmere’s plan? Will her friends ever forgive her if she does stop it, since it involves all of them taking the royal jet to Genovia for an extravaganza the likes of which would turn even Paris Hilton green with envy? Why can’t Mia get what she really wants: an evening alone with Michael?

With a little luck, this sweet sixteen princess might just get her wish—a birthday that’s royally romantic.

What a crazy long description for a book this dinky!

This book was really cute. It’s a small little episode in their lives, and really makes me see the potential for this as a TV show (in which Disney plays no part). Mia continues to display maturity, particularly regarding some of her actions towards Lilly, so yay for that. I really liked the last few pages, especially a possible romantic pairing that is hinted at. I’d love to see that come to fruition in the next installment. Not that either of the characters involved are particularly well-developed, but still.

My one very nitpicky gripe is that Mia twice mentions that Malfoy and Snape wear capes. The only mention of capes I could find is that fur ones are part of the Durmstrang uniform.

If you like the series, you’ll like this.

Party Princess by Meg Cabot: B+

Book description:
This spring, Mia’s determined to have a good time, despite the fact that the student government over which she presides is suddenly broke. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) Grandmère has an elaborate scheme to simultaneously raise money, catapult Mia to theatrical fame, and link her romantically with an eligible teen bachelor, not her boyfriend. It’s no wonder that Michael, the love of her life, seems to think she’s a psycho, or worse: not much fun.

Is it possible that Mia, soon-to-be star of the stage, president of the student body, and future ruler of Genovia, doesn’t know how to party?

There were a few annoying things about this book (like the references to Netscape as if it were a website, and Mia’s consistent worrying over something very stupid) and a few obvious plot happenings, as well, but even with that, I really enjoyed this installment in the Princess Diaries series. Like, much more than I remember liking number six.

The chief reason is because Mia seemed to be nudged out of her self-absorption mode and started to grow up a little. Oh, still plenty spazzy, but she really did seem to be figuring out some fairly essential stuff. It leaves me hopeful that Meg Cabot is going to build on this and allow Mia to grow within the course of the series, not condemning her to stagnate in a fifteen-year-old mindset forever.

If you thought the quality in the series drooped a bit in recent books, give this seventh one a try. It might give you hope.