The Princess Diaries was one of the most important books of my young teenage years. I had a battered first edition that I re-read routinely. The copy met its end when I lent it out to my best friend. Her mother found it, skimmed it, was scandalized by it, and threw the book away. (I’m still bitter. I have since bought another first edition.)
If you haven’t already heard, Meg Cabot recently released some very exciting news. She’s writing an eleventh book, and this one will be geared towards adult readers. (Think Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood Forever.) In celebration, I re-read the series, and ranked the books.
The student council of AEHS, of which Mia is President, is broke. Michael, Mia’s boyfriend, is hosting a college party and expects Mia to be there. Only, Mia doesn’t know how to party.
Standout Moment: Mia writes a list, ordering the people she loves by how much she loves them.
Its Rank: Poor Party Princess gets the short end of the stick! I feel bad about this, but it is my least favorite book out of the bunch. As a teen, I avoided reading this installment because of its dearth of Michael Moscovitz, the best uber-genius boyfriend ever written, and the scalding awkwardness of Mia’s attempts to party.
In the final (soon to be penultimate) book in the series, Mia’s father runs for Prime Minister, but meets stiff competition. Mia stares down graduation, and sends her romance novel manuscript out to publishers. Michael makes a triumphant return from Japan.
Standout Moment: Lilly and Mia confront each other in the bathroom at the senior prom.
Its Rank: Forever Princess was written later in Meg Cabot’s career, and by that time, her writing had undergone a significant shift. There is less of the witty detail that characterized her early works.
Grandmere instigates city-wide union strikes after she mistreats a waiter at Mia’s birthday dinner. Mia is dying to go to Michael’s senior prom, only he refuses to go.
Standout Moment: Boris, distraught at his breakup with Lilly, drops a globe on his head during Gifted and Talented.
Its Rank: Princess in Pink is a solid book, but, like Michael, I just don’t get the appeal of proms.
Mia spends her winter break in Genovia. She doubts the events of the Nondenominational Winter Dance, and wonders if Michael will break up with her.
Standout Moment: Mia gives Michael his birthday present — a moon rock collected by Neil Armstrong.
Its Rank: Princess in Waiting was written in Cabot’s golden age, but Mia spends most of the book away from New York, to the story’s detriment.
Not knowing how to extricate herself from her relationship with Kenny Showalter, Mia sends Michael anonymous notes, professing her love.
Standout moment: Mia pulls the fire alarm at Albert Einstein to sabotage Lilly’s student walkout.
Its Rank: Princess in Love really captured my imagination as a young teen because of the romance. I place it in the middle of the pack, however, because Cabot has more to offer.
Mia accidentally announces her mother’s pregnancy in a televised interview. Helen’s parents from Indiana come to New York to visit. Mia receives anonymous messages from an admirer.
Standout Moment: Lilly televises an unauthorized interview with Mia talking in her sleep.
Its Rank: A fantastic installment, but slow going, plot-wise. This book does great work at establishing the characters introduced in book one.
Devastated after her breakup with Michael, Mia takes to her bed and refuses to leave the house. While doing research for Grandmere, Mia makes a discovery that could change Genovia’s course of history.
Standout Moment: Philipe takes Mia to see a therapist, Mr. Knutz, who analogizes the horses on his ranch.
Its Rank: Princess Mia has a special place in my heart because of the emotional depths that it explores through Mia’s breakdown. Cabot put a lot of herself into this book, and it manifests in genuine, heartfelt prose.
Michael announces that he will move to Japan to pursue his robotic cardioarm prototype. Grandmere encourages a distraught Mia to use sexual wiles to keep Michael in New York.
Standout Moment: Mia cuts off all of her hair to make her brother, Rocky, less scared of the barber.
Its Rank: This installment features Mia at her craziest. Her neurotic, insane meltdown is a rollercoaster of a read.
Mia is accused of ecoterrorism after releasing marine snails into the Bay of Genovia to combat the bay’s algae problem. At home, the Thermopolis-Gianini household deals with new infant, Rocky. Michael starts college at Columbia University. Lilly convinces Mia to run for student council president in her stead.
Standout Moment: Michael’s roommate, Doo Pak, believes that Michael hired Mia to pose as his girlfriend.
Its Rank: Princess in Training contains a little bit of everything good about the series. Peripheral characters get a chance to shine.
High school freshman Mia Thermopolis discovers that she is the heir to a small European principality.
Standout Moment: Dowager Princess Clarisse Grimaldi Renaldo arrives from Genovia to instruct her protege, Mia.
Its Rank: It’s the first and the best. No other book in the series can top our introduction to Mia and her quest for self-actualization.
What do you think, Princess Diaries fans? Agree? Disagree?