C O N T A I N S S P O I L E R S !!!
Welcome to our new-ish discussion feature! Lately, we’ve been realizing that sometimes a review just isn’t enough… we want to share our thoughts with people using actual, you know, textual examples… AKA ‘SPOILERS.’ It is, of course, hazardous to give away too much in book reviews, although it is a delicate line to walk. You don’t want your review to be bereft of examples, but you can’t push it too far. There are always spoiler tags of course… but we’ve been wanting to write full-on essays about certain books, and tags just aren’t good enough for us anymore. We need to write more down!
This time around, Sierra and Ellen want to discuss a book that we’ve both read and weirdly enjoyed. Yes, this post is a discussion of Paper Princess by Erin Watt.
I think of Paper Princess as having consumed a Big Mac from McDonalds. You bite into it, and it’s delicious and you crave more. But after it’s over, you’re left with a faint feeling of nausea and/or disgust but also may have developed a mini-addiction to it.
You can read Sierra’s full review HERE.
I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book as much as I did, but it was a fun little traipse through the gutter. “Gutter,” you say, Ellen? Mightn’t that be a touch harsh? Nah. Ask the author to her face about whether or not Paper Princess is even moderate literature, and I bet she’d be like, “No, no, no. This book is just for funzees.”
You can read Ellen’s full review HERE.
What Makes Paper Princess So Readable?
Ellen: In my opinion, the best part of Paper Princess, the reason why so many people like/love the novel despite its ridiculous-ness, is the PACING. On the writer’s end, pacing is quite complicated to construct. But on the reader’s side, it’s simple. It’s what makes a book un-put-down-able. I read Paper Princess in one go and so did Sierra. Hell, Sierra stayed up all night! It’s undeniable… Erin Watt, despite writing a trashy book (it’s true), has serious chops when it comes to sucking readers in.
Sierra: I couldn’t agree more! I mean, I finished Prudence at 3am and dove straight into Paper Princess. THANK GOD I DIDN’T HAVE WORK TODAY. #readerproblems
Ellen: As it happens, the excellent pacing made up for a lot. Paper Princess isn’t pretending to be great literature, and it’s certainly not something to recommend to more intellectual readers. That being said, there was a kind of trashy fun to the book that appealed to me.
Sierra: Paper Princess is just pure entertainment. Almost like watching an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It’s not for everyone, but I promise you, you won’t notice the time flying by while you have your nose buried in this book.
The Point of Sex in Paper Princess
Ellen: I read Paper Princess over a month ago, so it took a while to jog my memory. But once I cast my brain back, I remembered that the book has some hefty sexual themes. Ella, our MC, is depicted as being very sexually powerful, yet inexperienced. It created an interesting fulcrum, because Ella is surrounded by a bunch of slavering males just waiting to plunder her. But beyond being merely titillating, I thought the adult themes were fascinating, because all of the sexual content in Paper Princess was ABSOLUTELY about power plays and power dynamics.
Sierra: I actually had no idea how sexually explicit this book would be (not that there is anything wrong with it). I thought this was a run-of-the-mill YA contemporary. But seeing Ella try and strip for Callum (her new guardian) to prove that she was capable of taking care of herself, in the first 10% of the book, helped me realize what I was really getting myself into.
Ellen: I was going to reference that scene as well. I think that moment said quite a bit about the themes of the book. On one hand, during the course of Paper Princess we see Ella own her sexuality and feel empowered through that. On the other hand, we see the ramifications of sex break her down. It’s a swinging pendulum throughout the entire book.
Sierra: Looking back on it, I really wish Ella hadn’t been a virgin. She was constantly accused of being a slut and treated horribly by everyone (except Callum), because of her background as a stripper. Her virginity seemed to be the only thing that convinced Reed that he had been an absolute asshole. Do you agree Ellen? It’s only been a few days, but I read it so fast that I’m a little fuzzy with the details.
Ellen: I agree that it was messed up how Reed only backed off Ella when he understood the extent of her sexual inexperience. Not cool, bro. However, I will say that it made sense for Ella to be virginal, from a dramatic standpoint. I think we can both agree that sex is a huge theme in Paper Princess. By giving Ella some modicum of innocence there, Watt made sure that there was room for progression and change throughout the book. It was dynamic, the way Ella began to use sex as a method of human connection. Before, she had put up major walls, walls that allowed her to rake in cash. But when she makes herself vulnerable for the first time, it sets her up for a mighty blow — one that is immensely shocking for readers. I don’t think we would have gotten that dramatic impact if Ella had been more sexually and emotionally callused.
Themes of Incest in Paper Princess
Ellen: One of the more darkly engrossing aspects of Paper Princess is the boundary of sexual decency that that the characters skirt and at times cross over. Case in point: the incest factor. Now, real incest grosses out 99.9% of the planet. And I’m happy to report that Erin Watt doesn’t go there… quite. She does, however, get awfully close. The twins share sexual partners. Ella runs the bases with her would-be stepbrother. The boys believe that Ella and Mr. Royal might be… involved. And then there’s that moment that none of can us forget, where we discover Reed in mid-coitus with Brooke, his own father’s ex-girlfriend. Sierra, what do you think the point of all that was?
Sierra: I honestly don’t know if there is a point besides shocking her readers. Or maybe it was done to show that Ella is the sanest, most mature one of the lot. The Easton and Ella makeout session bothered me, especially when it was clear to both of them that she was pretending to be making out with Reed. The fact that Easton and Reed were unfazed at the thought of sleeping with Ella while believing that she was also sleeping with their dad was odd. And let’s not forget, the twins don’t just share sexual partners, they DECEIVE their partners into thinking that they are sleeping with one brother, when it is the other. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS FAMILY. Gideon seemed to be the most normal one. But then again, he’s off at college for most of this book.
Ellen: I agree — I think shocking the readers and keeping them hooked on tawdry drama was a big part of it. However, since I can’t HELP but analyze, I also think the incest-theme help beat a message home… the message that the Royal family may be rich, but they are bankrupt in essentials.
Sierra: The Poor Little Royals.
The Concept of Family in Paper Princess
Ellen: Throughout the whole book, it’s abundantly clear that the Royals are a broken family. They are POOR in this respect. The mother has sadly passed away. The teenagers, in her absence, are absolutely feral. The dad is inconsistent and inappropriate. The most functional member of the family is their chauffeur!
Sierra: Abso-fucking-lutely. The boys and Callum are at an all-out war. The boys believe that Callum’s supposed infidelity during his marriage is what cause their mother to kill herself. Callum made it clear to Ella that he loved his wife and although his absence was definitely a sore point in their marriage, he never cheated on her. This is what I took away from that particular section of the novel. COMMUNICATION PEOPLE. Spouses, please ASK if your partner is cheating on you before taking any sort of drastic action? At the very least, hire a goddamn private investigator.
Ellen: An “all-out war” is right. The kingdom is in disarray and that’s what Ella steps into. At first, she wants nothing to do with their crazy, but eventually she starts trying to unify the family. She cooks them dinner. She tries to alleviate Easton’s gambling addiction. She even starts to put down roots with Reed, taking steps to become the mother/sister figure of the family, just like Reed is the father/brother. Of course, Reed destroys all of Ella’s fragile progress on this front by screwing Brooke, his father’s ex. The Royals are in self-destruct mode. Which brings us to book 2, Broken Prince, OUT THIS MONTH.
What We Hope To See in Broken Prince
Sierra: GROVELING. I know this is unlikely. It’s just not in Reed’s character. But right now, I’m still raging at him. That little fucktard (excuse my language)! I would like to see Callum actually try to communicate with his sons the way he’s been confiding in Ella. I would love to see more of Gideon and figure out what is going on with him. Above all, I would like to see more character development with the twins. THEY ARE TWO PEOPLE. Let’s treat them that way. How about you Ellen?
Ellen: I would like to continue to be surprised. I thought Erin Watt’s huge shocker at the end of Paper Princess was priceless. It may be wrong, but I want more of that. Big emotions. Big drama. Big set-ups. Big upsets. I want to see character made tall just to fall. And then I want to see them redeemed.
This is a new discussion/reviewing style for the both of us. Let us know in the comments below what you thought of it, and if we should keep doing them.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend!