________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017

cover

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess.

Casey Griffin.
Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publising (Distributed in Canada by Raincoat Books), 2017.
334 pp., trade pbk. & Ebook, $13.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-63375-593-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-63375-598-7 (Ebook).

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Penta Ledger.

**** /4

   

excerpt:

Corbin snaps his fingers at me, and I realize I’m staring out at all the Sunday shoppers on the street. The afternoon sun glares through the store window, reflecting off all the bling on display. I blink the dazzle from my eyes and look into the camera.

“Not including my first day, the first week of school was great,” I say, although, that’s not entirely true. Kevin hasn’t spoken to me since I trashed his picture. Although, this one time when I said “hi” to him in the hall, he said “hi” back. Kind of like a reflex. But then he didn’t seem happy about it.

Corbin stand to the right of the camera, gesturing for me to expand on my answer, so I say, “I’ve made a lot of friends. They came shopping with me today.”

The other camera sweeps around the store where Harper and SPAM sift through sparse, overpriced racks. I’m not all that interested in checking out clothes. It’s not like I need to be when I have a stylist and personal shopper.

Our trip to Rodeo Drive couldn’t be more different than the first time I fled to the busy shopping hub. The reminder of my humiliating striptease doesn’t sting quite as badly anymore. Actually, it makes me think of Kevin. If my skirt hadn’t torn, and I hadn’t come here, I might not have met him. But not the problem is that I can’t stop thinking about him. Nor can I be seen talking to him at school. Across the room, Harper holds up a sweater that looks like it was used as a cat bed. “What do you think?” she asks in mock seriousness.

I giver he a thumbs-up from my interview station. It wouldn’t matter if she did wear a cat bed. She would look hot wearing a kitty litter box.

When I first moved to Beverly Hills, I just wanted a clean slate. To make friends. In the end, it wasn’t as hard as I expected, even after the Wonder Woman underwear incident. But what I didn’t expect was that there would be so many rules. If I want to avoid the teasing, the relentless torment like I had to endure from bullies back in Seattle, I have to make the “right” kind of friends. It’s like I have to choose between being friends with Harper and her entourage as “the Princess” and grabbing a pizza with Kevin.

Corbin doesn’t seem as interested in my interview as he does getting shots of SPAM popping out of the fitting rooms dressed in increasingly sexier outfits. I wonder if the girls really came to hang out or if it was just to be on TV, because Prissy and Mercedes seem to talk to the camera more than they do me, and nobody even buys anything.

When I suggest we leave the store, Amber complains that she never got to try anything on for the cameras. Star doesn’t seem to mind either way; she gets easily distracted by sparkly things in the windows we pass.

Harper points to a bright sign at the end of the street .”Let’s get some ice cream.”

Definitely,” I say. “I’m starved.”

“But I’m not supposed to have ice cream,” Star says. “My agent told me that I need to lose two more pounds before my audition next week.”

Mercedes looks up from her phone and stops texting for half a second. “It’s not ice cream. It’s gelato.”

“Oh. What’s the difference?”

“It’s made of gelatin,” I say, because I really want ice cream. “It’s basically fat free.”

Harper giggles but doesn’t call me on the lie.

Star’s forehead wrinkles. “Well, then I guess it’s okay.”

As we go to enter, Corbin holds up a hand. “One second. Let us go in first, we’ll get a shot of you guys entering from inside.”

Corbin holds the door open, and Hugh carries the camera into the ice cream parlor. Through the window, I watch him set up the shot. We all wait awkwardly outside until Corbin gives us a thumbs-up. Finally, Star opens the door so we can go in. Yeah, because this feels totally natural.

When I step into the shop, though, I want to turn around and leave. My eyes lock across the room to the only people in the place, and my face falls.

Kevin’s there.

And he’s wearing a cape.

 

As if Adrianna (Andy) Bottom doesn’t have enough to worry about just being a teenager, her family is now the newest reality T.V. program showcasing her family’s rags-to-riches life based on her father’s patented glow-in-the-dark Bowl Buddy and his company, Bottom’s Bathrooms and Accessories. Moving from Seattle to California, Andy is hoping to recreate herself from a bullied “mayor of Geeksville” to an accepted and popular teen. However, this isn’t as simple as it seems even though she has a stylist and a new start.

     Starting a new year at Beverly Hills High, Andy (now to be called Adrianna because it sounds better for the show) is trying to start over by wearing the right clothes and making the right friends. Her first day she meets the stunning Harper, the most popular girl in school. Things are looking up for Adrianna, but humiliation sets in as the designer skirt her stylist made her wear rips completely and everyone sees her Wonder Woman underwear, even the camera. Wrapping a sweater around her waist, Adrianna runs away from school and right to the shops. With some new jeans, she decides to walk around, but is soon spotted by Corbin, the director, and the camera crew. Adrianna tries to hide from them by ducking into a nearby shop. To her surprise, it’s a bathroom store - like she can’t escape her life for a second! The only consolation is that she meets Kevin, who not only works at the shop, but is also in Adrianna’s Biology class. They haven’t really met before, but Kevin is not afraid to be himself, and Adrianna finds out they have a lot in common. Before long, Kevin tells her that he’s involved in Live Action Role Play (LARP). Since she’s a geek at heart, she finds this interesting, but it goes against everything the “new Adrianna” is supposed to be about.

     Adrianna continues to hang out with Harper while trying to figure out how to deal with her new popularity and on-camera life. She starts to learn how hard it is to be popular when Harper tells her to avoid Kevin like the plague because he’ll be a popularity killer. Harper has other friends in her group as well, friends that Adrianna shortly starts referring to as SPAM (Starr, Prissy, Amber, Mercedes). This new life is getting more difficult to take! Between the new rules and the fact that Harper’s ex (who Harper still secretly likes) just keeps hitting on Adrianna despite her rejections, Adrianna is just looking for an escape where no one knows her. There’s only one place she can go - LARPing.

     The best thing about LARPing is that anyone can join without revealing who they really are. Since Kevin told Adrianna where and when the group meets, she’s ready for a little escape. Besides that, Adrianna is able to make her own persona and her own costume, reconnecting her with her geekdorable roots. Donning a masked costume, Adrianna joins the LARP group and has a great time while getting closer to Kevin. The imaginary world seems a perfect escape, but Kevin’s sister, Keelie, threatens to reveal Adrianna and destroy her dual life as well as her budding relationship with Kevin.

     Adrianna’s life continues to complicate as her carefully crafted dual life begins to unravel. In a last effort to make things right with Kevin, her family, and herself, Adrianna blackmails the drama hungry Corbin to help her pull off one of the largest LARP events ever. In the end, Adrianna throws off her mask (literally and figuratively) and happily accepts herself just as she is.

     Griffin does a great job of building rounded and distinct main characters. The plot builds with twists and turns that add to the suspense of the story and are successfully resolved by the end of the novel. Using the imaginative world of Live Action Role Play against the immediacy of reality television presents an interesting contrast. As Adrianna’s character continually tries to escape her life and recreate herself into someone she thinks she wants to be, in the end, she accepts who she truly is and find happiness in that. In contrast, Kevin’s character never changes. He openly celebrates the person he is even in the face of bullying. These are strong and positive messages, andSecrets of a Reluctant Princess would be a great read for any young adult.

Highly Recommended.

Penta Ledger is a teacher-librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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