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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Princess for Hire A Fun, Fresh, Cliche-Busting Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's pretty much a given that any book bearing a bright pink cover littered with frou-frou is going to be a little girly. Even if it is an anti-princess book like Lindsey Leavitt's Princess for Hire. I mean, seriously, no guy's going to come within 10 feet of this thing. Young girls, however, they're going to be lining up just for a peek. And well they should - this debut novel is fun, original, and delightfully cliche-bending.

Our heroine is Desi Bascomb, a teenager from Nowhere (okay, Sproutville) Idaho, who dreams of a life filled with the kind of glamour only found in old movies starring people like Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman. Instead, she's stuck at the mall hounding out coupons in a groundhog suit. Even out of the ridiculous costume, she's scorned - her father helped convict a popular girl's dad, leading to the rapid death of Desi's social life. All Desi wants to do is sink into a bathtub full of bubbles and forget her troubles.

Luxuriating in the tub doesn't turn out to be quite as relaxing as Desi had hoped. Before she even has time to lather up, a strange lady pops out of a giant bubble. To Desi's utter amazement, the woman invites her to join an agency that provides doubles for princesses around the world. Playing royalty beats impersonating a groundhog any day. Desi takes the job, ecstatic to finally let a little dazzle into her humdrum life.

It doesn't take long for Desi to realize that the princess dress-up gig isn't quite as enchanting as it sounds. In fact, the job is turning into a royal pain. As she's whisked from assignment to assignment, Desi has to face problems that are a lot more complicated than choosing which tiara to wear to the ball: There's a conniving older sister to deal with, a wandering prince to win over, and an angry mob of cannibalistic tribal members to outrun. And she has to do it all under the critical eye of her sourpuss agent. Living in spudville hasn't exactly endowed Desi with courtly manners, but it's given her a much more powerful kind of magic - the ability to think for herself. Quick decision-making and swift action are the two things that are going to save Desi's hide. Or get her sent straight back to Idaho.

Princess for Hire tells the familiar story of a young girl who longs for more than her pedestrian existence. I expected Desi to follow the cliche by hopping into a fairy tale world, discovering that palace life is not all it's cracked up to be, and springing back to her own land content to be the mere commoner she's always been. Nope. Leavitt busts the cliche wide open, allowing for a very broad definition of the term "princess." Her story takes us to surprising venues, forcing Desi to grapple with problems we never see coming, providing a nice, fresh take on the whole tired princess theme.

At times, I feel like Leavitt tries a little to hard to be funny, but otherwise, this is a charming book that will appeal to girls of all ages. Guys? Not so much.

(Readalikes: This isn't the kind of book I typically read, so nothing's coming to mind. Any ideas?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG - While I consider this a clean book, it's more appropriate for older middle-graders (say, 10+) only because it uses some terms I wouldn't want to have to explain to a younger child (love triangle, panty lines, etc.).

To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the generous folks at Disney/Hyperion. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. So, I saw this book at the library while I was browsing. I remembered that you liked it and so I picked it up and read it. You were right it was so much fun, and the character's voice was great! Thanks for a great reccomend.


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