Monthly Archives: June 2015

“I am Princess X”: A Nancy Drew-like Mystery with a Twist for Today’s Teens

[Beware: Spoilers!]

Although I stalled out on my Nebula reading back in April, I have been reading great books and comics. I just finished I am Princess X, written by Cherie Priest and illustrated by Kali Ciesemier. Although I haven’t read any YA novels in a couple of years, I stumbled across an intriguing review of the book.

Two best friends, May and Libby create a world together about a character called Princess X. Libby dies in a tragic accident, and May ages three years. Eventually, May starts seeing Princess X materials around Seattle, and she begins to investigate the possibility that May is alive.  May recruits the help of a teen computer prodigy in her quest.

I really appreciated the fact that the books integrated modern technology into the characters’ lives, although I have no idea how it would resonate to a teen in terms of what technology they are more likely to use. Since I’ve visited Seattle twice and had lovely visits, I adored the fact that there were many scenes all over the Seattle area. The books also felt familiar beyond just the city scenes. I felt a wave of nostalgia for the old mystery books I used to read as a child and teenager. It reminded me of  books with mystery-solving protagonists like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc.  In a more modern sense, it reminded me a bit of television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

During my research for this piece, I discovered this article on Nancy Drew and the publishing industry. It’s a long, fascinating read.  I was dumbfounded to learn the the “old” Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books that belonged to my parents were actually revised versions from the 1950s. They updated them in terms of driving ages and types of cars, as well as taking out racist stereotypes. I did know that when I was a teen in the 1990s that new Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were being released because I read them as they came out. I lacked much of a critical lens at that age, so I have no idea what my reaction to the books would be if I read them today. As far as I know, this book is not part of a series, but I can see how it could be a part of a series.

Returning to I am Princess X, I was really excited to see that the theme of social class was present in the book, particularly homelessness. Most of the chapters were presented from May’s point of view.  However, a bit of the book is presented from the point of view of a homeless man. He saved and helped Libby. Libby also was living homeless to escape the clutches of the man who murdered her parents and kidnapped her. I liked the fact that the book would have sympathetically exposed teens to the idea of homelessness and perhaps would reduce stereotyping towards homeless persons by teens. The villain, on the other hand, was a wealthy business owner who had a history of mistreating women. He used his resources to break the law in multiple ways.

Furthermore, I was pleased to see an exploration of gender. The young women in the book were both amazing, and the young men were, too. When sexism happened between May and her new friend, they discussed it. Although there might have been attraction between them, the book didn’t turn into a romance. The most important relationship was between the friends, May and Libby.

The last relationship that I want to address is between Libby and her father. There is conflict between them, but he is not a villain or completely absent. In fact, when he made a mistake, he attempted to actually correct it by helping her research Libby’s case.   

Although my thoughts about the book are mainly positive, occasionally I did get distracted from the story wondering if a teen would actually think about a particular situation in the way that May did. The book also had illustrated pages of Princess X comics. I wish that they had been more detailed.  I read the book from the library so I may have missed some content. All in all, I’d recommend this book to teens in a heart beat. I’d recommend it for adult readers, too, especially if they were like me and missed teen mystery stories.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Sociology, young adult