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Book Review: I Am Princess X

February 10, 2017

27009357I Am Princess X
By Cherie Priest, illustrated by Kali Ciesemeier
Scholastic
(Library Book)

This story is somewhere between a comic and a YA novel, blending both genres into excellent, fun suspense. When they were little girls, May and Libby spent hours inventing the complex, imaginary world of Princess X. May wrote, and Libby drew the pictures. Princess X carried a katana and wore red chucks while she saved the day and trounced the bad guys… I was pretty prepared to love this book for that detail alone. But the twisty, suspenseful plot that happens afterward, and the friendships that emerge from it were even better.

Libby and her mother died in a car crash a few years after the two girls became friends. And now, at 16, May is returning to Seattle, where she and Libby grew up, living with her dad for the summer and trying to come to grips with her memories of her friend.

But she starts seeing Princess X stickers everywhere. And there’s a thriving webcomic by an unknown author… May sees references to the imaginary world she and her friend created, and starts to wonder if it could be Libby.

I loved the way the Princess X comics wove through the story, both for the imaginative mystery they set up, and just aesthetically. I like the bold, purple lines of the drawing style. And I like how they worked as a call-and-response with the plot of the mystery: showing pages as characters read them, pointing to symbolic clues that translated to real-world mystery solving. The pacing of the mystery was just right- fast enough through the twists and turns that there were some breathless, engrossing moments, but with enough humor and breaks into the comics that it wasn’t completely harrowing.

I would recommend this book equally to comics readers and prose fiction readers with a fondness for a good fantasy. And I think it would work equally well for teens and grownups. There’s a very strong chance I’m going to spend the next few weeks asking just about everyone I talk to whether they’ve read this. And then telling them they absolutely should read this book. Now. Immediately.

And that’s both because I enjoyed the puzzle mystery, and because I like the way the comics were put together. And the characters. While Libby and May are at the center, the people around them, and the comic characters themselves are pretty terrific.

I must remember that I have yet to find a pair of Converse sneakers that is comfy on my feet. And that I do not need red ones. Or a katana.

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