I wasn’t planning on reading this new Princess Diaries spinoff series, but I was on such a high from”Royal Wedding” that I ended up reading this book, in the hopes of getting more of Mia and Michael.
“From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess” is the first in this middle grade Princess Diaries, revolving around *surprise, surprise* (sorry, spoilers), Mia’s long-lost half sister, Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison. Olivia Grace is twelve and thinks she’s pretty ordinary, until the day she finds out she’s a princess.
I’m sure this series was meant to target a new generation of Princess Diaries fans, but that won’t stop the fans of the original series (ergo, me) from reading this, too. And to those like me, who wanted more after reading “Royal Wedding,” I’ll have to say that this book is entirely skippable.
Basically, if you’ve read “Royal Wedding,” you pretty much already know how this story goes. Bluntly put, it’s exactly all the Olivia bits from Royal Wedding, from Olivia’s point of view, as written in her notebooks (sound familiar? :D). Which makes sense for first-time readers of the series, but for hardcore fans, it’s quite a letdown. Nothing’s added to what we already know, plus, Michael’s only mentioned in passing (boo hoo!).
Also, I find Olivia Grace quite boring compared to Mia, really. I do understand that she’s had very little exposure at this point and has very big shoes to fill, but she’s a little too well-adjusted to be interesting. It’s not that she’s unlikeable — it’s just the exact opposite! Olivia is entirely too likeable: level-headed, biddable and so easy to please that she comes off as a regular Mary Sue. I mean, compare her to Mia — Mia’s neurotic as all out, she’s had princess angst, depression, hypochondria, paranoia, and a whole lot of other issues, but I think that’s what ultimately made her interesting enough for readers to stick to the series through the years.
Another interesting thing I should point out is that this book showcases illustrations by Meg Cabot herself. I admire her for doing it, and they’re good illustrations, though I do think they could be better planned, especially with the abundance of illustrated middle-grade novels these days. The illustrations are more of spot illustrations; they don’t really propel the story forward, so I would consider this a book with pictures rather than an illustrated novel.
I do hope this series picks up, not just to throw a bone to longtime fans like me, but also because I want the Olivia Grace readers to sustain enough interest to eventually move on to the original Princess Diaries as they get older. It has so much potential, especially in the next installments, which will be set in Genovia, and I hope it sparks the same magic that Mia did for her readers.
P.S. (Because I was discussing it with Jewel earlier) Is it too much to ask for a Michael story?!?