Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Paratore

 Green Bean Teen Queen hosts a meme on Tuesdays called Tween Tuesday where great books for tweens are featured. I like this meme a lot because at my job I end up reading a lot of middle grade books. 

More of my Tween Tuesday posts.

A Pearl Among Princes, by Coleen Paratore
Release Date: September 17, 2009
Publisher: Dial

Pages: 208
Received: Library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Author's Page
Amazon Page

Goodreads page


Growing up on an island shrouded in mist and surrounded by rocks treacherous to navigate around, Gracepearl has always longed for escape. She is tempted each year as the neighboring kingdoms send their princes to Gracepearl's island where they are trained in the courtly (and courting) arts. Gracepearl is overjoyed, however, when she learns the kingdoms have lifted the ban on royal-commoner marriages. Seeing an opportunity to finally leave the island, Gracepearl begins a fun and flirty quest to woo one of the princes into marrying her and taking her to his kingdom. Only one thing stands in Gracepearl's way: the love she holds for Mackree, her childhood friend.


Before anything, it should be noted that this is one of those books where you cannot judge the contents by the cover. Based on the cover, I was expecting a light-hearted, fun, and fluffy little book about a girl's first time falling in love. The girl looks young, sweet, and innocent. Granted, the plot may sound a little less innocent, but I figured what with this being a MG book the marriage scheme was probably all light and in good fun.

The reality is not quite what I was expecting. Unfortunately, I think this book would be better enjoyed by YAs, but may be shunned by them because of the MG-looking cover. Gracepearl speaks with a voice more similar to a woman than a girl. This would stand out less in a YA title, but as a MG book it almost makes me question the publisher's choice in their target audience. While not graphic at all, Gracepearl's relationship has a more "adult" feel that, again, would be fine for a YA title, but seems a little too serious for a MG book.

Now about that relationship. While there are some scenes where she is flirting with and getting to know various princes, most of the main courtship occurs "off stage." I felt really gypped by this. Isn't half the fun of these stories getting to see the romantic relationship develop? I was doubly gypped by this because I also didn't get to know her love interest all that well. He seemed nice enough, I guess, but I don't really know because I don't really know him. That isn't the way a reader is supposed to feel about the romantic lead.

I also found it hard to like Gracepearl. I understand her predicament, and as the stereotypical spunky, "She's just too spirited to be contained in her quaint little village" she worked well enough. Plus, who wouldn't want to marry a handsome prince? I get that. What I didn't like about her was her motivation, with that then being a reflection on her character. She spends the entire book trying to rope a prince into marrying her, not necessarily for love, but for his ability to take her off the island.

I felt sorry for all of her romantic prospects, as she seemed to be primarily focused on how she could best use them, regardless of how this would affect them. She may have been content to marry a man she did not love, but she never once considered it wrong to dupe a man into believing she loved him when she really didn't and only wanted to get married for his ability to take her off her island. She would be depriving him a chance at true love and condemning him to a loveless marriage. How can I root for a girl who is so self-serving, especially when it is at the expense of others?

I was initially drawn to the premise. The idea of a bunch of princes coming to an island to learn how to woo women sounded funny, and as a MG book, cute.This part of the plot was well done and I was entertained. There were two different but equally attractive princes vying for Gracepearl's affections, though I was confused as to how this all worked out in the end. Their attraction to her was never fully explained and the resolution of their storyline seemed overly convenient and not explained all that well either. Still, these two characters were fun to read about and I, like Gracepearl, had a very difficult time deciding which one I liked better. Gracepearl's two friends were also very likable. Thinking back, I think I would have enjoyed this book a whole lot more if these two princes and the two friends were the main characters and Gracepearl was removed completely.

There were some plot holes that took away from my enjoyment. Gracepearl spent a lot of time talking with her deceased mother, who somehow talked back. Is it normal in this world for the dead to continue speaking to the living? Does Gracepearl possess some special gift that allows her to do this? Is Gracepearl just imagining the conversations? We aren't given any explanation. These conversations were important to Gracepearl, so it seemed especially wrong that there was no explanation given.

Finally, the author wove in nursery rhymes throughout the book at both the beginning of each chapter and sprinkled through the text. As far as I could tell, there didn't seem to be any significance to these nursery rhymes. Outside of the fact that they were there, I'm not sure what purpose they served. It also struck me as strange that nursery rhymes that are so familiar to the real world were included in Gracepearl's wholly fictional world, that apparently also includes magic. This kind of combination can work, but without any explanation and world building at only a bare-bones level, it just struck me as awkward. 

The ending was beyond convenient, but that is easily overlooked. I usually even love these types of endings where everything works out perfectly in the end. While this book is categorized as MG, I can see juveniles, young adults, and even adults all finding something to like here...just not me I'm afraid.
 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 


  1. Um, what kind of a name is Gracepearl anyway? Maybe I'm just nitpicking on her name because from your description, I already don't like her, but seriously? Gracepearl? Odd.

  2. Seriously?! I mean, Gracepearl?! I totally agree. Bugged me through the whole book.

  3. Ugh, I can't stand it if the main stuff happens "off stage". It drives me up a wall. >_< Loved your detailed review.

  4. Hmmmm this is probably not my cup of tea, but I truly appreciate your honesty about this book. It discourages me when the cover, character voice, etc don't match the age-level of the genre in which it fits. Great review :)

  5. Great review. And yeah, seriously, Gracepearl? That name would bother me to read over and over again. I think I would find myself getting overly annoyed at this book, so I'm glad that your review was honest.

  6. I'm sorry this book wasn't what you expected. I agree that the idea of a bunch of princes coming to an island to learn how to woo women sounds very entertaining! Too bad the MC was so shallow. Also, having all the romance happen off stage is a bummer. Now, I'm curious about how it ended. Did she marry for convenience or for love? Did she get off the island? LoL. You don't have to answer. I don't want to spoil the book for others.

  7. Dazzling Mage, I know! What's up with that?

    Melissa, Thanks :) It discourages me too, especially as a librarian. My kids come up all excited because they like a cover, but then I have to tell them it's a little too old for them. Then the older kids look at me like I'm crazy for offering them a "kids" book.

    Chelsea, Thank you!

    JessiKay, Thanks! Haha, yes, Gracepearl is right up there with Renesmee for me. Maybe the moral of the story is, "Pick one name only"

    Laura, Doesn't it sound like so much fun? I was so disappointed. You'll just have to read it to see how it ends! Or, you could email me and I'll tell you :)

  8. I've enjoyed this author in the past, but I'm not sure if I'd like this one. I would be annoyed with the romances being off screen so much that you never get to know them.

  9. This is the first time I have read this author, but I have heard wonderful things about her. Do you recommend any of her books in particular?

  10. Glad to see a new Tween Tuesday person! This sounds like an odd book. Can't imagine why you'd have a romance develop off screen in a book.

  11. I'm really enjoying these meme. I know! That didn't make any sense to me. Isn't watching the romance develop the whole point? I'm very confused as to why it was done this way.

  12. Interesting review--well done. I don't think it's one I will pick up though!


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