This book is one of my “fair weather” friends that I am only in the mood for when I want a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. For that to happen (without me getting annoyed or developing a twitch) I need to be bored out of my mind, with the sun and moon aligned in just the right positions. That being said, my opinion of this book is not very high nor do I particularly enjoy it or Meg Cabot’s other works like The Princess Diaries. I hardly doubt my opinion can reshape its worth in the eyes of professional literary critiques nor of high strung teenage girls. I was surprised that this book was adapted not only into an illustrated comic but also a Disney movie. REALLY surprised actually. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that bad. Just average.
To put it simply, this story is a teenage girl’s paradise that suffers from what I call “cut and paste syndrome”. Think of every cheesy, young adult romance story you have ever read, mush it all together and you get the basic synopsis for this book. Don’t worry, it isn’t complicated. It begins with our heroine Elaine “Ellie” Harrison, who isn’t really attractive but has a spunky, independent personality, moving against her will to Annapolis, Minnesota with her parents, who are coincidentally geeky medieval professors, where , as if by fate, she happens to meet the “reincarnations” of main Arthurian personages who she instantly connects with. (BREATH) She falls in love, reluctantly of course, with (Arthur) William Wagner who is wonderfully handsome but she can’t be with him, a point she brings up on almost every page, because he is dating the perfect Jennifer Gold. In the end she saves him from the forces of evil so that he can fulfill his role as Arthur and lead the world away from darkness. Of course this would mean nothing if he didn’t fall in love with her as well despite her obvious imperfections. In short, nothing surprising happens. All in all, she gets the guy and saves the world. There are many stories that are written better, but it served its purpose; to tell a story about an average girl who does extraordinary things and wins the heart of a gorgeous boy.
CHARACTERS/CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: 3/5
Most of the characters are your basic cookie cut outs portrayed in many romance books, movies, and TV shows. First you have the misunderstood, popular, and beautiful cheerleader girlfriend Jennifer Gold who is dating Will, the love of Ellie’s life, but secretly making out with Lance Reynolds, Will’s best friend who isn’t too bright but is loyal and hot, though not as hot as our main hero of course. Arthur Wagner, who prefers to be called Will because he doesn’t really like his father, is the stereotypical handsome, kind, intelligent and mature main hero you would expect in a story like this. Personally, I don’t think I have met a teenager with so much “depth” in my life. Taking into consideration that most girls want to be with “mature men” but usually date/marry immature boys, whose egos could fill an entire blimp it is no wonder teenage girls cling to stories like this. They should just wait until they grow up before they expect anything extraordinary from the young men around them. Moving on, the main heroine had some depth and I had fun listening to some of her comments. However, Cabot could have done so much more to make Ellie more colorful and three dimensional. The independent main female heroine has been used so many times that there is only so much an author can do to make her different and more dynamic. In my opinion, there need to be more stories where the girl doesn’t need to cast off her femininity to satisfy “modern” perceptions or expectations of women. They can still be strong and likable even if they can’t twirl swords or talk like men.
WRITING STYLE/OVERALL IMPRESSION: 2/5
I think Meg Cabot’s writing style is okay. I kept waiting for something extraordinary or surprising to happen but I was disappointed. Honestly though, I actually hate most stories based on Arthurian legends, the only exceptions being The Dark is Rising series (1965 to 1977) by Susan Cooper and The Sword and the Stone (1938) by T. H. White. Ironically though, the parts that intrigued me the most were the references to King Arthur and his lovely circle of betraying friends, upset half brother/son/nephew and murderous father. It was the other stuff that I didn’t like. To the author’s credit, she kept me “somewhat” interested till the end, though only halfheartedly.
PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 2.5/5
Do I recommend this book? That is tough. If you like cheesy, teenage romance novels with copy-cut-out plot elements and characters you will love it. For those who want something with more substance I wouldn’t bother. Instead I would recommend the above mentioned Arthurian based works or Wildwood Dancing (2006) by Juliet Marillier.
OVERALL SCORE: 2.5/5
Ellie: “Home?” I echoed. “What do you know about home? Home isn’t just a place, you know. It’s people who make a home. . . people you care about, and who care about you. . . or who would, if you didn’t turn around and abandon them. . .”