Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Pages: 239
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

When an immaculately dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and asks you if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you

a) run

b) faint

c) say Yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.


The magical world of Disney

This book is a made for TV Disney movie. Not really, but it should be. The key features of a Disney movie—that light, slightly humorous feel, a touch of magic, a plot point that revolves around a dream most girls share, a hint of PG-rated romance (very minor part of the book), and a regular girl learning an endearing message—are all present here. Good for tweens and teens alike, Princess for Hire is the type of book that will satisfy if you’re craving a little Disney magic. In this case, feel free to judge the book by its cover.

But, really, the world is magical

I don’t know why (I guess I didn’t read the extended jacket blurb) but I didn’t realize this book had magical elements. I mistakenly thought it was going to be one of those “Prince and the Pauper” lookalike plots. When Desi’s brisk and bossy agent Meredith enters the book by floating into Desi’s bathroom encapsulated within a giant bubble, my inner geek let out a little fist-pump and cheer. The sparkles on the cover aren’t just regular sparkles, they’re magical sparkles! Yay!

The magical world was one of my favorite parts. There’s an entire council with back story, factions, and secrets. We’re even given an explanation of how the princess for hire service works, including the necessary paperwork, networking, and how the princess substitutes swap gossip and information about their princesses. Lindsey Leavitt did a fantastic job fleshing out this feature. I can almost believe such an organization exists (where's my bubble so I can sign up?).

Meredith rocks

Meredith totally won me over. She’s Desi’s agent and a former substitute princess herself. She’s a no-nonsense woman with a clipped, almost rude personality. She also has a secret disgrace that has left her on the outs with the council. That doesn’t make her sound that great, right? But she is. Underneath her harsh manner she’s caring, sensitive, and fiercely loyal. Meredith also knows how to get things done. I would pay to have Meredith in my corner.

A little princess

Unfortunately, Meredith isn’t the main character. Desi is, and I didn’t like her nearly as much as I loved Meredith. Desi is ok, but she annoyed me at times. I could relate to her really well and I appreciated her desire to help the princesses, but she was also a bit of a brat.

She was one of those characters who knows so much that isn’t true. Her youth and naiveté was apparent and she had an edge of attitude that bugged me. She stubbornly plowed ahead with her ideas without fully considering the situation and possible consequences of her actions. I think this would bother younger readers a lot less, but I looked at Desi and just wanted to shake her a few times and tell her to mind her elders (yikes! Mind her elders? How stuffy can I be??)

She did learn and grow, but she was also vindicated. Desi was ultimately right in many cases, but her approach was, I think, often wrong and this wasn’t addressed enough. The message was a little muddier than I would have liked. This and my inability to fully like Desi are the main reasons I gave a rating of 3.5 stars instead of four.
Once upon a time

The plot wasn’t as tight as I would have liked, but it was still a lot of fun. I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending some time masquerading as a princess sounds awesome. You get to poke around in their stuff, wear their fancy clothes, go to royal banquets, and jump on their gigantic princess bed. Pretty cool, right? Ok, ok, it would be very wrong to snoop in someone else’s things in real life, but this is fiction and Desi has to do it. It’s her job, so it’s totally justified, guilt-free snooping.

While there isn’t any time travel here, you do still have the same element of “fish out of water pretending they belong” that I love so much about time travel books. Desi is just kind of thrown into her assignments and she needs to fumble and fudge her way through them making sure none of the princesses’ friends and relatives realizes she’s not really the princess.

This led to some very funny scenes! In typical Disney fashion, however, these scenes also led to the syrupy sweet *awww* moments where various characters learn to appreciate who they are inside. Sure I know I’m walking right into a cliché, but can you really argue with a warm and fuzzy feel-good cliché? I can’t.

Happily ever after

Overall I enjoyed this reading experience very much. I was looking for a little feel-good Disney magic, and this hit the spot perfectly. This is the first book in a series with the second book coming out in May 2011 (The Royal Treatment, on Net Galley now and I am definitely reading it). I suspect the romance will increase a bit in the sequel and I hope Desi comes back a little more mature and aware. I also hope we get to see more of Meredith. Though there is a sequel, Princess for Hire works just fine as a standalone.

Note: I’ve since read the sequel and it is awesome! All of my annoyances with Desi are completely gone.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 

Looking for something similar? You might like: 
My Fairy Godmother by Janette Rallison


  1. I'm still in the middle of this one. For some reason it has been hard to stick to it. I like it while I'm reading it but I can easily put it down :P

    And thanks for the heads up on Meredith!I haven't been liking her so far but I'll stick to her :)

  2. Great review! I have this on my to-be-read list. I love the cover... if you look carefully, you'll see the second necklace is a candy necklace. It sounds really good, even though I'll probably have to brace myself for some of the sappier moments.

  3. It sounds cute and funny. I be you're right and it does get made into a film.

  4. Aww, this sounds like a really cute read! Haha, I love how you said it's got the making of a Disney movie! :)

  5. Alex, I can see why it would be easy to put down. For me the plot sort of seemed like a bunch of little vignettes that once you finished once section, there wasn’t a driving need to continue on to the next. I hope you like Meredith by the end!

    Madigan, I know! Every time I see that candy necklace I wish I had one. It’s so perfect for the book even though it doesn’t connect to the story directly. I hope you like Princess for Hire!

    The Slowest Bookworm, I hope it does! It would be a cute movie.

    T.B., It really does have the makings of a Disney movie. The second book was even better. :)

  6. Yeah, this is definitely a cute read that will appeal to younger readers. I'm glad your annoyance with Desi disappears in the sequel. I'll probably end up borrowing The Royal Treatment from the library.

  7. I loved this book. The second one is even better. It was just pure cuteness. It's a little saccharine sweet, but I was expecting that. I didn't like how the Meredith v. Lilith thing was handled - it was just too obvious that difficult Meredith would be Desi's advocate. I loved Desi - I thought her attitude combined with being a "good girl" was refreshing compared to a lot of YA characters

  8. Great review!!! My oldest daughter is reading this series, and she's really enjoying it! :)

  9. I've been avoiding these books because they seemed so cheesy, but I certainly trust your reviews. When I'm in the mood for a feel good girly book, I'll be going to this one. And it's sequel. Do they have a Princess for hire service in real life? I need a job!


  10. A Canadian Girl, She was so much better in the sequel. I also think the sequel had a bit of an older tone (though not old) because Desi grew up a bit more.

    Alison, I agree, the second one was so good. Oh yeah, definitely saccharine, but, I mean, look at the cover :P I agree it was obvious with Meredith coming in “unexpectedly” at the end, but I wasn’t really expecting a ton of surprises either. I loved Desi in the sequel.

    Christy, I’m so glad to hear!

    Heather, Ha, yeah sign me up too! I would love to be a princess sub, and Desi gets paid pretty well too! They are cheesy. If you like Disney tv movies, then you’ll love it but if you find Disney movies to be a little *too* cutesy, then these books might annoy you.


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