The Princess Diaries
by Meg Cabot
Summary: Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there's nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.
Is she ever in for a surprise.
First Mom announces that she's dating Mia's Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn't have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?
For some reason, I've procrastinated about reading this series for so long and I'm not completely sure why -- I adore Meg's Mediator series and her 1-800-Where-R-You series and yet with this, I kept putting it off. Honestly, I'm only getting round to reading them now because I've heard good things about the New Adult sequel that was released not too long ago. But anyway, I actually really, really liked the first book.
I sort of wish this was one of those series I'd read when I was younger and grew up with. It's a really cute, fun, quick read and I think I would've appreciated it more had I read it as a young teenager than reading it now because things that bothered me now wouldn't have back then -- like recognising that her friendship with Lily is actually kind of toxic (hoping that changes in the later books, it seemed to be heading in the right direction near the end of this one), or that 17/18 year old guys date 14/15 year old girls.
Basically, I liked the book, but I think younger teenage me may have loved it. And I think that maybe the next books might be even better.
Now, for the comparison to the movie:
I think this is one of those rare cases where the movie is actually better -- maybe because the book is so short and so entirely told through Mia's limited perspective that the movie had an easier job of fleshing out the other characters. It's a decent adaptation, it still follows the same premise and has a lot of the same characters but I think the characters and their relationships in the movie are definitely better.
Like Mia's relationship with her grandmother -- I much prefer the dynamics in the movie and the way it develops there (their relationship is one of my favourite things about the movie, but I think a big part of that may be that Julie Andrews is fabulous and her and Anne Hathaway had amazing chemistry on screen).
Jo, Mia's driver/bodyguard, isn't in the first book. There is a character that fills that role but he has a different name and isn't quite as present or developed. One of my favourite book characters was Tina and I enjoyed her friendship with Mia way more than Mia's friendship with Lily, but her character was cut from the movie. I think Michael Moscowitz and Mia's mum are the only characters that don't alter too much from page to screen (well, and Lana and the popular guy whose name I don't remember -- but their characters are quite stereotypical anyway).
Another big change is that Mia's dad is dead in the movie, but he's alive in the book -- and I think the movie version actually works better and requires less suspension of disbelief than the way it's done in the book.
So yes, I'd say the book is good, but the movie is better. But, keep in mind I've only read the first book so maybe the movie incorporated things from the sequels that I wouldn't pick up on having only read the first book -- the more developed characters and relationships might be based on the rest of the series.
I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5. Not my favourite of Meg's series, but still really good and I can't wait to read the rest (especially so I can get to the NA one, because the movie sequel has a very different plot so it's like an alternate ending).