What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2010.

August 2, 2010

A Dubious Interpretation of Rule #4 (The Princess Diaries Vol I-III, Meg Cabot)

I never quite stopped reading young adult books (looking back, I simply paused during college and those early adult years). In 1996, while browsing in the children's section for a 2-year-old's birthday gift, I came across a book I had loved more than a decade earlier: Dicey's Song. Several other Tillerman books had been published since I had last read the book and, being a sucker for a sequel, I bought the next title. The following week, I went back for the next one. I'll admit, when the guy in the children's section asked if he could help me, I claimed I was looking for "my niece" and dashed away lest my secret be out.

J.K. Rowling legitimized adults reading kids' fiction, and Stephenie Meyer brought it into the mainstream. I'm now in that awkward, in between spot: I have a daughter who loves to read. She's a tween (how weird is that word?). She's about a voracious reader as I am, although with less stringent rules (for instance, she will read a series out of order. I stopped reading Trixie Belden around 1983 because I couldn't find Book #6. #7, #12, #21, #30: all present. Not #6. How psyched was I when they began reprinting the books in 2006? But only up to #13. Will I ever learn what happened in the final 20 books?).

In any case, I'm always previewing books that my daughter might read. She's almost 9, so loves anything about kids around that age, but turns her nose at romance, fashion and mean girls. (My daughter rocks). While at Borders the other night, I found a collection of the first three Princess Diaries books on sale. Now, my daughter has seen the movie and, thanks to Brendan meeting Meg Cabot at a conference, owns several of the Allie Finkle books. While I was fairly certain that Princess Mia was still in Hadley's future, I decided for $1.98, I could buy the starter set and see for myself.

OK, so Hadley won't be reading the Princess Diaries anytime soon. Not that she isn't aware (in no particular order) of kissing, dating, birth control, homosexuality, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies, unwed mothers, or cliques... but I'm fairly certain that there is a rule somewhere that says kids must read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Watership Down, and the complete Wrinkle in Time series before tackling these subjects. I, however, am more than a little enamored of Mia and her friends. They're smart. They struggle with typical teen angst, but manage to stay true to themselves. The adults are pretty realistic (aside from the sudden announcement about being royalty) and also flawed (I've never found the perfect parents to be believable or interesting). The writing is tight, the topics are relevant, the characters are recognizable...I get why Disney was so eager to jump on the Meg Cabot bandwagon.

Will my interest be maintained over ten volumes? Probably not, but that's why I'm not the target audience. I am curious how Mia handles her first trip to Genovia, so I'm sensing a trip to get book four in my future.

P.S. to Brendan: The three books combined equaled over 700 pages, so I passed the 300 page requirement of rule 4. I know I told you that I wasn't even going to post this one, but you want me to remain true to the reading program, right? Right? Anyway, think of it as a public service announcement for screening books for children.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that your adherence to the program did not shame you from sharing your time with Princess Mia. Also, I never read past "A Wrinkle in Time" in that series, so I don't think your YA reading rule holds up.