Book Preview: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, #1)The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Paperback, 240 pages
920L

Fifteen year old Mia Thermopolis has just found out that her father’s a prince and that she’s a princess. She has to learn how to be a princess, navigate high school, and try to keep from leaving New York and going to run a country. This is one of those books where the movie is very different from it’s title book. Interesting fact, Anne Hathaway, who played Mia in the movie, also narrates the official audiobook.

My Original Post about The Princess Diaries
This is another one of those brief posts where I tackle the issue of censorship. It was brought to my attention that one Meg Cabot book was pulled from the shelf at the middle school where I teach for inappropriate content. I can appreciate pulling books from the shelf on the basis that there are ideas/issues that the middle school aged student is not mature enough to handle, but as I understand it, the novel wasn’t read in its entirety.

I have a problem with people banning books when the book has neither been read nor thought about in terms of the bigger picture. Like the whole Harry Potter scandal of old. Something about challenging something without having all of the facts, or in this case, the background, doesn’t sit right with me. Besides, how do we grow if we do not, from time to time, subject ourselves to something uncomfortable?

All of that being said, because the one book was banned from our library, the rest of the Meg Cabot was pulled from the shelf, the challenger thinking that the remainder of the novels were to be discarded as well. Apparently one of the members of the library staff thought that the books were pulled so the challenger could read them and decide whether or not discarding the entire collection (29 titles show up in a library search for “meg cabot”). So by the same token, should we ban Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, or Lois Lowry’s The Giver (which is award winning) to protect the children? Hmm. I read these as a child and they’re fantastic.

That being said, and because I have a defiant streak, I decided to read the first of the Princess Diaries novels. I was curious to see what the challenger could find so objectionable in this novel, that my best friend and her kid had both read already, and to see what they pulled from the novel to create the movie.

The closest things to objectionable I could find are as follows

  • Mia has a preoccupation with breasts. Not in a homosexual way, mind you, it’s just that she doesn’t have any and thinks being noticed and landing a boyfriend is determined by cup size. Maybe in high school, that is the case, and I know many girls, even at the middle school level, can identify with Mia’s obsession over this issue.
  • Mia likes to look out the window at people in her neighborhood, particularly the transsexual who lives across the way. I’m sure some could protest that any slightly homosexual activity or suggestion shouldn’t be read by their children, but I’m willing to argue that if people are going to get up in arms because there’s a transsexual living across the street from a character in a novel and that’s what they’re upset about, then they’re not looking at the bigger picture — see the coming-of-ageness of this novel (see me waving my arms around like there’s a cauldron in front of me trying to magic people into broader world views).
  • Mia comes downstairs one morning to see her algebra teacher in his underwear–mind you, he’s dating her mom. There’s an implication there of “inappropriate” behavior between two concenting adults. And Mia does make a point to show that her mother is not promiscous and doesn’t bring home every Tom and Harry that she goes out with in the interest of her daughter. The only reason Mia caught them is because she decided not to spend the night at her friend’s house.

And honestly, that’s it. There are other novels I’d be more apt to consider to remove from the collection than this one. And while the book and the movie are wildly different (though I don’t think Clarise is painted as as big of a snob as Anne Hathaway suggested in her commentary to the movie), I can see what they drew from and how they adapted the film for the big screen. I can honestly say that I enjoy both the book and the movie equally.

Take that, people who get upset about movie adaptations and how they differ from the novels.

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