Forever Princess by Meg Cabot: C+

From the front flap:
It’s Mia’s senior year, and things seem great. She aced her senior project, got accepted to her dream college(s), and has her birthday gala coming up… not to mention prom, graduation, and Genovia’s first-ever elections.

What’s not to love about her life? Well…
* Her senior project? It’s a romance novel she secretly wrote, and no one wants to publish it.
* Prince Phillipe’s campaign in the Genovian elections isn’t going well, thanks to her totally loathsome cousin René, who decided to run against him.
* Her boyfriend, J.P., is so sweet and seemingly perfect. But is he the one?
* And her first love, Michael, is back from Japan… and back in her life.

With Genovia’s and her own future hanging in the balance, Mia’s got some decisions to make. Which college? Which guy? How can she choose? Especially when what she decides might determine not just the next four years, but… forever!

Nearly two years have passed since the events of Princess Mia, and now it’s just a week until graduation. Mia has spent the intervening time working on a steamy romance novel for her senior project, but has lied to her friends, telling them it’s about Genovian olive oil processing. She’s also lied about various other things, as well, including hiding the fact that she got accepted into quite a few prestigious colleges.

I found the first half of the book to be very annoying, as Mia’s constant justifications of why she can’t just come out and tell people things are quite frustrating. She says stuff like, “I course I couldn’t tell Tina the truth—that my senior project is not a history of Genovian olive oil processing but in reality a romance novel, because it has sex scenes, and she’ll wonder how I researched them.” Both K and I were confused as to why this was a problem, since Tina is a big romance novel fan. My theory was that Mia thought Tina would realize she had broken their “let’s lose our virginity on prom night” deal and had already had sex with J.P., thus providing insights for her novel. It turns out, though, that the big mystery of how she researched them is… by reading copious amounts of romance novels. She and J.P. have evidently not gotten beyond first base in two years of dating. (!)

The second half is a bit better, though. Michael returns and J.P. finally shows his true colors. Both Mia and Lilly have grown up, too, so are able to patch things up. Does Mia realize how much she is to blame for all that went wrong, like I’d hoped? Not really, but she does at least have a decent conversation with Michael about how she screwed everything up. Mostly, her failings are attributed to her immaturity at the time rather than to any lingering personality issues, like chronic indecision.

I also like that she’s very responsible about sex and subsequently firm in her convictions that she could say no if she wasn’t ready. I just wish she weren’t prone to declaring “I suck!” when being equally firm and reasonable about the nature of the publishing contract for her romance novel (the excerpts of which are laughably bad, by the way). She’s well within her rights to want the book to be considered on its own merits, but still feels bad for refusing a lucrative offer J.P. wrangles purely on the basis of her celebrity status.

Anyway, the ending is satisfying, with various important conversations finally transpiring and loose ends wrapped up. It even gets a little amusing: my favorite line is, “Hey, quit sniffing me a minute.” Ultimately, however, my primary emotion is relief that I can now go a very long time without reading anything by Meg Cabot.

Princess Mia by Meg Cabot: B

From the back cover:
It’s so typical: Mia can’t even attend a performance of Beauty and the Beast with her best friend’s boyfriend without it ending up in the New York Post. And that’s the last thing she needs after her dramatic breakup with Michael.

But that’s the life of a princess. And to make matters worse, Mia’s been asked to deliver a speech for the Domina Rei women’s society—and she has absolutely no idea what to say! Still, being down is no reason for her parents to force her to see a therapist. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, Mia discovers the long-hidden diary of a teen princess and stumbles upon revelations that will make everything else seem like a walk in the park.

My first inclination is to complain that “nothing much really happens in this book,” but that’s really not true. A good deal happens, but it’s just mostly inner stuff. Mia is still reeling from her breakup with Michael, and stupidly agrees with his suggestion to be just friends, rather than voicing any objections to this plan. She spends a week in bed, and eventually begins parent-mandated therapy sessions that ultimately help her realize that she’s waiting for other people to solve her problems for her. This leads to some good things and some bad things.

I’ve long wondered why on earth Mia likes Lily, when Lily often engages in really crappy behavior. In Princess Mia, Lily is giving Mia the silent treatment for various angsty reasons, and I was happy that this prompts Mia to wonder whether she even wants Lily’s friendship back. Mia’s not portrayed as entirely in the right, though, as Lily’s complaints about Mia aren’t invalid. Mia may not have intended to do various things that hurt Lily, but that doesn’t stop the fact that they happened anyway because of her wishy-washyness. I like that their relationship is not mended by the end of the book, and hope that, in the next and final installment, Mia will realize how she is actually at fault in some measure.

I also liked that, when Mia receives a love confession from J.P., she responds by saying that she needs to take some time to figure out who she is without Michael before she starts going out with someone else. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long, and by the end of the book, maybe a day or two after her stated need for time, she is seeing him as acceptable “moving on” material and snogging him in a freak September snow flurry. It’s not that I think teen romance needs to last FOREVER AND EVER OMG, but J.P. is just so boring. I can’t imagine that anyone reading this series really wants her to end up with him and not Michael.

While seeing growth from Mia is nice, she’s also incredibly annoying sometimes, like when a week of missing school results in heaps of make-up work and she whines a lot about how unfair it is. She also continues to be oblivious to obvious things, like J.P.’s feelings and the fact that Boris has been in communication with Michael. I guess I just didn’t find her very likable this volume, even though she definitely made progress.

Cabot’s writing style also continues to be annoying. Here’s an example:
1. Mia goes on a shopping trip with two popular girls from her school, Lana and Trisha.
2. Then she goes to hang out with Tina fewer than ten pages later.
3. Mia does not tell Tina about the outing “You know, with Lana and Trisha.”

Um, yes, I do happen to recall that! It was fewer than ten pages ago! I am not a moron. I seriously think Cabot has a word count that she’s contractually obligated to meet, so she just sticks those kinds of needless reiterations in as padding.

Princess Mia is not bad, and I appreciated the emphasis on inner growth. The challenge ahead for Forever Princess is an interesting one—it should be atypical and feature Mia realizing that she is responsible for allowing certain things to happen but be typical and satisfying by having her back with Michael at the end (or, at least, not dating the dull J.P.). At least, that’s what I want to see.

Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot: B+

From the back cover:
At last, Mia is a junior. An upperclassperson. Free of her responsibilities as student body president. So why is it that everything is going so terribly wrong? What is she doing in Intro to Creative Writing? When she has made it through Algebra and Geometry, why must she be faced with Precalculus? And for the love of all that is Genovian, why has Lilly nominated her for school prez again? All this is nothing compared to the news Michael springs on her, however. On top of all the mathematical strife, her beloved boyfriend is leaving for Japan for a year. Precalc has nothing on preparing for the worst separation ever!

Turns out there is one way she might convince Michael to stay. But will she? Or won’t she? No matter what, Mia seems headed for disaster.

Mia and Michael had to deal with a very interesting issue that I haven’t previously seen addressed in YA fiction: What happens when you find out that someone you’ve assumed shares the same beliefs as you actually doesn’t? Can you be understanding or will you be judgmental?

Neither Michael nor Mia manages to handle this well. Mia freaks when she learns Michael has given the “precious gift” of his virginity to a girl he didn’t love, and Michael fails to understand why this bothers her so much. This results in Mia breaking up with him, even though she doesn’t want to.

Although often stupid or misguided, Mia’s actions and reactions are believable from a sixteen-year-old girl, and I was at least capable of empathizing with her a lot of the time. Michael is finally revealed to have some “typical boy” characteristics, which makes him a lot more realistic. Sex is discussed responsibly and with a variety of viewpoints.

Instead of wrapping up tidily as I expected, things with Michael are unresolved by the novel’s end. I wish Cabot would’ve passed on Mia’s “accidental” smooch of J. P., however, as it just adds unnecessary angst and complication to what is already an important moment in Mia and Michael’s relationship. The resulting fallout with Lilly and Mia’s incredible stupidity in taking J.P. up on what is clearly a date makes for a very irritating ending.

Valentine Princess by Meg Cabot: B

From the inside flap:
Valentine’s Day means flowers, chocolates, and all-out romance.

That is, it usually means those things. But when you’re Princess Mia, nothing happens the way it’s supposed to. For one thing, Grandmere seems determined to prove that boy (or Michael, as he is commonly known) isn’t the right one for the crown princess of Genovia. And Mia isn’t having much luck proving otherwise, since Michael has a history of being decidedly against any kind of exploitative commercialization (Valentine’s Day, as it is commonly known).

Boris can declare his love openly to Lilly, and even Kenny comes through with a paltry Whitman’s Sampler. So why can’t Michael give in to Cupid and tell Mia he loves her—preferably with something wrapped in red or pink and accompanied by roses—in time to prove he’s Mia’s true prince?

Well, with a book this short and frivolous, one doesn’t have very high expectations. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t disappointed by this little book but neither was I blown away.

Good stuff: It made me giggle a few times and marks the first time I have ever seen the word ‘snerk’ appear in print.

Not so good stuff: This takes place in the past (Mia found an old journal), so it’s supposed to be amusing when Grandmere’s astrology buddy predicts unlikely celebrity couples that Mia scoffs at (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), but it isn’t.

Random stuff: I had to look up a slang term that I was unfamiliar with (“blow-out,” a type of hairdo). It made me feel kinda old. There’s also confusion about the numbering of this book in the series. Cabot’s site calls it 7.75, but the series listing in the front of the book calls it 4.25. Based on the material within, and all the stuff that’s supposed to foreshadow what ultimately happens, I think reading it after book 7 would make the most sense.

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.