Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.
Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.
Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.
When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon – her best friend, Libby, who lives.
“I Am Princess X” was on my TBR for months before my little cousin — to whom I will refer as “mini-me” — and I decided to read it together and discuss. She actually read it over a month before I did because I was too busy (and she was impatient).
Mini-me and I could not have picked a better book to read together. Despite having a five-year age gap between us, we both thoroughly enjoyed the story.
Engaging story with cross-genre appeal
“I Am Princess X” is marketed as Young Adult because the protagonist is 16-years old, but the content itself is appropriate for younger readers — no sex, drinking or mature language.
Admittedly, I assumed “I Am Princess X” would ere on the juvenile side of youth fiction with its girly pink and purple cover. I guess I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, because I found the plot of “I Am Princess X” to be fast-paced and engaging with a good dose of thriller-style mystery and conspiracy. Some parts of “I Am Princess X” are even downright terrifying.
The plot is quite predictable at times, but the comic-book style illustrations add a unique flair to the storytelling. I wasn’t particularly shocked by any turn of events, but the story is addictive overall. I finished it in one four-hour sitting during winter break, and actually found myself wishing it was a little longer, a little more detailed. The conclusion feels right for the characters but seems a little anticlimactic and sudden after chapters full of guns and hackers.
Spectacular characters and relationship dynamics
Where “I Am Princess X” truly shines is its focus on friendship. I know. Break out the word “friendship” and any plot suddenly sounds like a cheesy Disney Channel movie, but with so many books focused on romance these days, it’s refreshing to one that emphasizes loyalty and unconditional positive regard in a healthy friendship. May and Libby have the kind of friendship for which everyone should strive – and theirs is certainly healthier that the social labyrinth through which teens have to navigate to find friends in other novels.
I also really enjoyed May’s relationship with Trick (aka Patrick, Hat Trick, computer geek extraordinaire – oh wait, ignore the last one). When I began reading, I could have sworn May and Trick would end up together. And if you squint really hard, you can spot the ship in the distance. I never thought I’d ever be relieved to see a book end without a little romance, but I would have been disgusted if Trick and May fell in instalove in the extremely short amount of time covered in “I Am Princess X.” As friends, they have a fantastic relationship dynamic full of teasing, banter and trust.
I wish I got to see a more dynamic portrayal of May, but I really enjoyed her as a narrative. She’s not particularly awesome in that she has no magical powers or martial arts skills, nor is she a genius, but that’s perfectly fine. She’s a normal teenage girl who accomplishes an extraordinary thing. Her voice is natural, realistic and a bit lonely. I had absolutely no trouble empathizing with her.
Trick is a delight: funny, smart, interesting and loyal. He made a few bad decisions in the past, but never does he cross any moral boundaries that worry me. In a way, this adventure is a redemption for him.
Jackdaw is a mysterious genius with a very interesting backstory. I’m glad I got to see a glimpse of his past.
Libby made fewer appearances than any of the other three characters above, which I believe is a shame. Still, her physical presence is not entirely necessary for her to make an impact and prove the strength of her friendship with May.
“I Am Princess X” is a quick — maybe a little too quick? — and addictive read that can be finished in no time and leaves you wanting more. The comics are well-illustrated and unique. Though predictable, the plot is engaging and appeals to multiple age groups. If you have a younger sister/cousin/niece/etc. and you’re not reading it with her, you’re doing a disservice.
There’s no romance in “I Am Princess X,” but there doesn’t need to be any. The friendships between May/Libby, May/Trick and Libby/Jackdaw are heartwarming and excellently written. The characters are a delight, and I genuinely enjoyed May’s narration.