Series Review(ish): The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Written by: Meg Cabot
Release Date: June 26, 2001 – June 2, 2015.
Series: The Princess Diaries

LetsTalk

  • This isn’t a real review. The series is too long and carries too much nostalgia for me to properly review. Instead, have some disorganized spoiler-y bullet-points of rambling about my reread of The Princess Diaries!
  • The first three books are definitely the best ones in the series; they’re funny and well-written and have a nice little arc, and the end of Princess in Love is possibly the cutest thing ever. Even though I still enjoyed the books that came after, I think the series could easily have ended after Book 3. After that, the situations got a lot more implausible and repetitive. However, I’m ultimately happy it continued; I do think the series picks up towards the last two books; the characters and dynamics go through a lot of changes, which is refreshing given the sameness of the last few books. The ending of the last book was pretty great as well–maybe not perfect, but perfect for the series.
  • Unlike a lot of people I love Mia Thermopolis all the way through the series. Sure, there are times when I’m frustrated with her and wish she would just TALK TO PEOPLE AND SORT IT OUT, DAMN IT, but I get it. Like Mia, I worry about everything, and I don’t always make the right decision, and I’m sometimes self-absorbed and don’t see what’s going on with other people’s lives until it hits me in the face. But she’s still Mia, and her voice is funny and relatable, and she’s a feminist and an environmentalist and loves her cat a lot (and her family and friends. but mostly her cat) and is loyal and stands up for the things she believes in, and she grows a lot throughout the series.
  • That’s one of the things I love about the series, actually. Like, in the last book a huge time skip has happened, and you can tell from Mia’s writing that she’s matured a lot. Her voice sounds different, more put-together, more…what’s that word she loves…’self-actualized’. There’s still some freaking out, of course, because she’s still Mia, but not quite as much as in earlier books.
  • You know who I don’t love, though? Lilly. I don’t think I liked her very much the first time I read the series either. She’s rude and arrogant and a terrible friend to Mia. No, seriously, I can think of maybe two instances when she was a good friend: the fourth book, when she helped Mia find out her secret talent, and the tenth book, when she made that ad to help Mia’s father with the election. Twice in four years. The rest of the time? She’s either putting Mia down, or behaving very obnoxiously in Mia’s home, or starting a freaking hate blog. I understand that she’s written this way intentionally, and sometimes she made me laugh, but I can’t believe Mia not only forgave her for that, but continued to be friends with her.
  • In my monthly wrap-up for June, I called Michael the perfect man. Having read all the books, I’m going to amend that statement. Michael is just imperfect enough to seem like a human being, while still being close enough to perfect to make me fall in love with him. And, like, the “I’m not going to wait around forever” comment was not cool (and neither was the constant dismissal of musical theater, come on, Michael, musical theater is awesome), but most of the time he’s extremely sweet and funny and supportive of Mia. And he’s a Buffy fan! How beautiful is that?
  • (The first time I read the series, I had no idea what half the pop culture references. Reading it now and being the huge Buffy fan I am, I had so much fun. I nearly jumped up and down every time Buffy came up on Lilly and Mia’s little lists, and every time Mia’s Buffy action figure collection came up, and when Mia mentions writing Kara/Lee fanfiction for Battlestar Galactica. I know pop culture references date a book, but I can’t really bring myself to care.)
  • The first time I read the series, I remember liking JP a lot and thinking the reveal about him in the last book came out of nowhere. Rereading the series with knowledge of the end in mind, I can actually kind of see it, not only because of the thing that happened at the beginning of Princess Mia, but because he always seemed way too good to be true. I still think “Bachelor Number Two is Secretly a Terrible Person” is a bit of a cheap way to resolve a love triangle, but I didn’t really mind too much, especially since we got our happily-ever-after ending.
  • Tina is possibly the most adorable human being ever. She’s sweet and optimistic and an actual good friend and I just want her to have nice things. If anyone deserves a romance-novel happy ending, it’s her. Also, it’s kind of awesome that Tina, who is a daydreamer and a hopeless romantic and reads basically nothing but cheesy romance novels, is also really smart and in advanced math classes and planning to go to medical school.
  • You know what? This actually deserves its own bullet point. So many people are dismissive of romance novels and the people who read them, and Meg Cabot subverts this wonderfully, both with Tina’s character and with Mia’s own romance novel. The last book points out that (a) romance novels actually take A LOT of time and effort and research to write, and (b) romance novels make people happy, and there is value in that. That was actually wonderful.
  • Your mileage may vary on this, but I also liked the way depression and therapy was handled! Depression is still depression when it’s brought out by life events (yes, even break-ups), and there is nothing shameful about going to therapy. My only issues were (1) that you actually need to exhibit symptoms for two weeks for a diagnosis of depression (Mia only did for one), and (2) that Mia’s anxiety problems weren’t addressed.
  • I love that Meg Cabot takes the time to thoroughly mock the film adaptations of her books. I may have died laughing.
  • One of the best surprises in the last couple of books was Mia and Lana becoming friends. The first time I read the series, I remember thinking, “Wait, why does Meg Cabot write the same Queen Bee type character in every single one of her books?” so it was really nice to see her vary it up here.
  • I love Lars. Lars is a delight and a gift.
  • And that’s everything! Final verdict: this is a super fun series, and even though it’s rough in places, I’m glad I read it. Now on to Royal Wedding, and then my real Meg Cabot true loves, Suze Simon and Jesse de Silva from The Mediator!

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