The Princess Diaries were the books of my teens. Mia was my fictional best friend. She was a tall, nerdy worrier fighting a continual battle with her hair. When I was fourteen this was exactly like me. Even now I’m 22, me and Mia are still on the same page*.
The Princess Diaries #1 sees us introduced to Mia through the journal her mother has given her to work out her anxieties in. Her anxieties are as follows:
- She’s flat chested.
- She’s failing algebra.
- Her mom has just started dating the algebra teacher who’s class she’s failing.
- Josh Richter doesn’t even know she exists.
And that’s before she even finds out about the whole princess thing. Then on top of that there are princess lessons with her heinous Grandmere, who’s determined to make her life a total misery under the guise of teaching her how not to cause an international incident. And there’s keeping the whole princess thing a secret from her best friend Lilly Moscovitz, who is a pretty passionate anti-royalist and teenaged genius. Lilly and her brother, Michael are both teenaged geniuses, actually.
This book came out in 2000. I remember my mum picking it up and reading the part where Lilly talks about how she would only have sex with a guy if he was wearing at least two condoms (younger readers: don’t do this!!) and being slightly horrified that her nine year old was reading them (though in my defence they were in the bookshelf at my primary school).
I was probably thirteen or fourteen when these books became the great comfort and influence they have been in my life.
One of the biggest takeaways from this book (and the whole series, actually) is the sense that ultimately, a person can deal with most of what is thrown at them. Mia deals with learning that when she grows up she will have to rule over the country of Genovia. She deals with her terrifying Grandmere. She deals with everyone finding out that she’s a princess, and the bodyguard and press scrutiny that come with that.
Don’t get me wrong – the girl is freaking out plenty – but there is never a moment where something happens that she can’t cope with. Even when she feels like she isn’t, she is.
Nostalgia for the Nineties kids
– Dial-up internet is a big presence in this book. Mia is always having to go online and ask Lilly’s brother Michael to go offline so that she can call her. Remember when you couldn’t have the phone and the internet at the same time?
– Britney Spears comes up a few times. I’d forgotten what a looming presence she was in my childhood. It makes me think of the days before we had Taylor and realise how much better things are now.
*Yes, that is a book pun thank you.