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Double Trouble

princess xme being meI am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Scholastic, May 2015
Reviewed from a final copy

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasaak-Lowy
Simon & Schuster, April 2015
Reviewed from an ARC

And hey! It’s a twofer Friday to balance out our start to the week. We’ve got two books that incorporate some unusual elements in their storytelling: one’s a blend of text and comics, and the other’s told entirely in lists. Both authors made deliberate choices about how to tell the stories, and while neither book is perfect, they’re interesting and worth the conversation. Both contemporary, both use humor effectively, both debuts (of a sort — they’re both authors new to YA) but they go in different directions.

I am Princess X

With three stars, this is a book that’s getting a lot of buzz, and it’s easy to see why. (Hint: it’s so super fun. Funnnnnnn!) Princess is a page turner; I was glued to it and almost missed my stop a few times. The characters are relatable, the humor really works, and the way all the genres blend together flows really nicely. The thriller elements thrill (mostly), the humor charms, and the emotional punches are effective (mostly).

And the format-blending really works here. The two stories compliment each other really well, feeding off each other and filling in for each other. The straightforward text narrative really benefits from the superhero/video game feel of Princess X questing around; the comics elevate the thriller aspects of the story powerfully; they add drama and flair to the more mundane moments May has to work through to solve the mystery.

What could keep this down at the table didn’t register with me until after I finished it; I was having far too much fun in the middle of the story. But RealCommittee might have some thoughts about — well, maybe about complexity in general. The characters are engaging — really relatable — but a little simple. The danger is sometimes a little too understated (if we’re to believe there’s a murderer on the loose here, I mean). And the end wraps things up too quickly and slightly too neatly.

However, this is a book you don’t want to miss; it won’t sit on the shelf long. Oooh! You know what I haven’t even talked about yet? The design! This is a seriously pretty book. The cover’s fab, and the purple toned art manages to be cute, charming, moody, and unsettling, sometimes all at the same time. Delicious!

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You

Todd Hasaak-Lowy has a YA debut, too, and he’s working in an unusual format. Me Being Me is told entirely in lists, and Hasaak-Lowy sticks to that authorial choice for the entire 600+ page run. This choice allows readers to feel really connected with Darren, enhancing his relatability. It’s easy to remember this as a novel told in first person, even though it’s not; the overall effect of the lists is a sense of intimacy and connection. We don’t need to be inside Darren’s head through the narration because we’re going through the work of decoding the lists and assessing what sorts of information they give us about Darren (and not just about the plot).

This storytelling choice allows for a lot of white space, and adds heft to the book (it’s long, but not quite as long as it looks). And, like a novel in verse, the lists themselves are generally bite sized and inspire a “just one more” kind of feeling.

Some critiques that RealCommittee might have: it’s a little too long, and with a flashy format like this, it can be easy  to feel less like an authorial decision than self indulgence. And, despite the length, there are a few dangling threads that are not resolved.

These are both, in their different ways, charming books that will find their readers, whatever RealCommittee has to say about them at the table. So what do you all think?

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About Sarah Couri

Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.

Comments

  1. I totally loved I AM PRINCESS X and have been recommending it like crazy to anyone who will stand still. I really love the design of this one and how the two stories come together. I agree that parts of it are a little too smooth but I feel like it could be argued that it’s a case where the whole outweighs the sum of its parts. I also feel like a mixed format book like this is probably in a good place to have people paying attention since graphic novels and illustrated novels are getting a lot more play of late.

  2. I love the cover (so much), but that’s the only thing I loved about I Am Princess X. I thought it was more MG, not YA, because it has a such an intrepid-young-protagonist-solves-crime feel to it – which isn’t necessarily a mark against it, only I found the novel to be a “child detecting in the internet age” book instead of a book about actual people. I wish there would have been more of a focus on character development instead of cutouts with parts to play in detecting.

    And the lack of character development meant I questioned everyone’s involvement, and why they cared, anyway, and how convenient it was that the webcomic became so famous.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      I enjoyed it while I was reading it (and especially enjoyed how fast of a read it was!), but once I finished, THIS. Beth, you’ve put your finger square on exactly the impression I was left with.

  3. I can’t keep Princess X on my shelves (as if I’d want to) and loved it myself. We included it on our Mock Printz list because 1. the combo graphic/regular prose format; 2. set is Seattle; 3. fun, kid-friendly mystery. I admit the writing could be stronger but I loved the whole premise and being from the Seattle area we can picture the action on the Fremont Bridge, around the Troll, and on the ferry.

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