Lynn: Looking for a smart, hip mystery to hand to teens who want something a little different? Cherie Priest’s I Am Princess X (May 2015) is just what the librarian ordered! Priest is the author of over a dozen adult science fiction and fantasy books, and she makes the transition to YA with enviable ease. That the book is a slim 215 pages is a real plus for time-strapped high schoolers with scant time for pleasure reading. Part prose, part comic, this will lure in readers and trust me, once started, this a book that can’t be put down.
May and Libby became best friends in 5th grade and invented the story of Princess X, a pink-clad, kick-ass princess in red Chucks carrying a special sword who fought monsters. May wrote the story while Libby drew the pictures, and they filled notebooks with engrossing adventures until the day when Libby’s mom fell asleep at the wheel and drove over the bridge carrying her and Libby to their deaths. May could never believe that it was Libby’s body that washed up days later and was buried in a closed coffin. Her life came apart as her parents divorced and she moved to Atlanta with her Mom, only visiting her dad in Seattle a few times a year. It is on one of these summer visits three years later that May is shocked to see a sticker on a shop window—of a drawing of Princess X! Over the next few days, May keeps her eyes open and soon tracks more stickers to a mysterious Princess X webcomic. No one knows who is responsible for the site, but May KNOWS it has to be Libby. Can she be alive after all?
Aided by some new friends, including Trick, a 17-year-old computer-savvy boy with his own secrets, May begins to uncover clues that may lead her to Libby and most certainly lead her into real danger. This is a completely absorbing mystery/thriller reflecting an edgy computer culture and packed with atmosphere and compelling characters. Priest gives us a shadowy villain who is extremely scary, cranking up the tension as the book careens into a scene straight out of a movie that had me shrieking, “Get OUT of the house!!” Fresh, tense and compelling, this is a mystery for today’s teens.
Cindy: Let me start with the cover. It is pure awesome. When May and Libby first designed Princess X they shunned a magic wand for a katana blade so that their princess could take things into her own hands instead of sitting around helplessly waiting for wishes to work. I searched online for the availability of Princess X merch so I could get stickers for my teen book club, only to stumble upon a bronze sculpture controversy instead. There’s more than one Princess X ready to take on the world.
We read from the advanced reader copy, so we only got a taste of Kali Ciesemeier‘s comics that tell part of the story and provide clues for the teen sleuths. Fortunately, we were given text placeholders so we could follow the story and I am eager to see the finished book. The text and illustrations in the galley are purple, a touch that teens will like.
While the wild story whips along, there are character insights and details that teens will find familiar in their own less-dramatic lives. May’s father doesn’t really know how to talk with his daughter, or how to help her in her lengthy grieving process. They avoided talking and watched the Venture Bros. on Netflix instead.
Episode after episode, until her dad announced that it was bedtime and turned off the TV. That’s how he always preferred to change the subject: with a remote control.
As Lynn says, this slim book packs a punch and pages turn quickly. Buy multiple copies. It’s no mystery that the attractive package will have this book moving faster than Princess X’s ninja blade!