Review: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin


Title: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess
Author: Casey Griffin
Publisher: Entangled Teen
My Rating: 2/5 Stars
Paperback, 320 Pages
Published March 2017

Summary: At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive… Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.  Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people. Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her. The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

Amber gave me this book after she received it in the mail from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review, and she didn't have time to get around to reading it. (And if you haven't been here often lately, this is her resignation post.) I wasn't sure what to think at first, and I hadn't heard anything about this book or this author beforehand, so I was totally going in blind here. After I just finished the book, I have to say that I certainly have some mixed thoughts about it, even though I don't think it was a terrible book. 

As my rating explains, the best way that I could describe this book would be as "it was okay." There were parts of it that I enjoyed and parts of it that I felt were somewhat unrealistic, and thus made it difficult to read. Overall, I'm left unsure how I feel about the book, but I definitely wouldn't say that I hated it, and I definitely wouldn't try to deter anybody from giving it a try.

This book is about a teenage girl whose parents get rich after her father invents a bunch of bathroom accessories that sell very well, and then she moves to Hollywood and has to settle into her skin as a rich girl in a new town, and to make things worse, she's being followed by reality T.V. cameras at every move. And she's in such a rush to erase her geeky past that all she wants is to reinvent herself into someone new...but it just so happens that not everyone is happy with the new Andy. (And at times, sometimes she isn't happy with herself.) It's a bit of a romance, a reality, and a coming-of-age story all rolled into one, with a lot of side plots and friendships and feuds and romances sprinkled in between. There is a lot going on in this book. Most importantly, there's live-action role playing, which Andy quickly finds a liking to even though she knows her Beverly Hills High friends would crucify her if they ever found out. So Andy is torn between being the geeky self that she's comfortable being and doing the things she enjoys, and being the perfect rich princess that her parents and the TV producers and her school friends want her to be. And as expected, Andy quickly learns that she can't have her cake and eat it, too.

As for what I enjoyed about the book, I really liked Kevin's character. He displayed a lot of the morals and spoke about a lot of the ideas that I personally stand for, which is probably why he appealed to me so much. I especially liked how he constantly stressed to Andy that it's what you do in private that matters more than what you do when you're in front of a crowd, and if you want to say that you're a kind and accepting person, you have to be one all the time, not only when it best suits you socially. That is an ideal that I stand in very strong agreement with, and I always have. Which is probably why Kevin was my favorite character in the whole thing.

I also enjoyed the revelations Andy seemed to have, when she began to realize that life isn't all about pleasing the people you hate to be respected and to (quite literally) get good ratings from others. The moments where she stood up for herself definitely made me cheer out loud and feel a sense of pride as a fellow geek who embraces my nerdiness and doens't give a damn what anybody else has to say about me. As I'm constantly telling those closest to me, "I like myself. I'm happy with myself. And that's all I need." And eventually, even Andy seems to catch onto that mentality.

As for the parts of the book that I wasn't that keen on, the book just felt overwhelmingly unrealistic to me: especially the bullying part. Maybe things were different for me because I went to a high school where this wasn't a big issue, but I still went to a public high school, and I can tell you that if anyone did things like fling ketchup in people's hair, or throw dead frogs at them, or dump pencil shavings over their head, there would be no way that there wouldn't be any repercussions. Especially because, at least in the context I was reading this book, all of these things seem to have been done in plain sight, with not only other students around as witnesses, but teachers as well. (And sometimes, even reality TV producers.) There is no way that these things would have happened without someone standing up for Andy -- if not an adult, at least another student. I remember taking several moments while reading this book to scoff at how ridiculous some of these situations sounded, because it's just something that -- from my high school experience, at least -- doesn't happen. I don't know much about the author or her age or anything, but it at least felt like this book was written by someone who was a little bit older and hasn't been on the high school scene for awhile now, and maybe thinks these outlandish things happen when they really don't. That part just made this book really difficult for me, because I couldn't get that thought out of my mind the entire time I was reading, and it definitely took away from the book for me.

I also couldn't get past the fact that these reality TV producers were getting away with so much, all with the excuse of a contract. Even some of the things that these people did definitely were contract-violating and it didn't feel really realistic that the kept getting away with it. It just made the whole thing feel off and weird to me.

Random thought: Maybe I'm finding stories like this more unrealistic because I'm older now, and therefore I see this sort of drama as juvenille? I doubt that's it, and I really hope that it isn't, because YA is my favorite genre and I definitely don't like this feeling. :/ However, I don't quite think that's why I had a hard time connecting with this book, because I haven't been feeling this way about every YA book that I read -- so maybe it's more of me just not connecting with the book well, rather than me not liking it because I'm *shudders* old. (But I'm totally not that old. I'm still technically a teenager.) 

Overall, I thought that Secrets of a Reluctant Princess was okay. It certainly wasn't a bad book by any means, but it definitely seemed a bit out of touch and unrealistic for a YA contemporary romance novel. I get that it was supposed to be set in Hollywood and that some pretty out-of-the-ordinary things definitely happen there, but there were some points where this book still felt like a bit too far of a reach. However, just because this book wasn't my cup of tea (or hot chocolate I suppose, since I don't drink tea) doesn't mean that it can't be yours! I still encourage you to give this book a try, because who knows -- maybe it'll be the best YA book about a teen heir to a bathroom industry empire that you've ever read. You never know!

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