Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen; illustrated throughout with comics.
Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.
Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.
Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.
When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There's an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby's story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon---her best friend, Libby, who lives. (courtesy of Goodreads)
This book is such a good concept. It capitalizes on the current craze for comics - particularly the increasing attention paid to comics aimed at girls and women. It is a rollicking super hero comic turned real life thriller story.
I flew through this book. Not only was it a quick read because of the large amount of drawings and well-paced prose, but it also was such a compelling story that I wanted to see what was going to happen.
It was an insane premise. Girl died in car crash. Years later, a comic character she (Libby) and her friend May created shows up on the Internet with a story of danger, imprisonment, and escape. May goes on a quest with her new-found hacker friend Trick to discover if Libby is still alive and if the things that happen in the comic are real. I had to respect the author for making the leaps she did. Every time I thought a potential plot twist was too far-fetched, it turned out to be the one used. It made the book very exciting.
The same thing I just complimented is also a criticism. The book was really unrealistic. Granted, realism is not a classic trait of comics or thrillers, but the story at points was eye-rollingly improbable. If you're going to do something stretching the bounds of normal expectations, you have to make it believable. As a reader, I had to take too many leaps to stay onboard with the insanity.
None of the characters were particularly well-developed. I didn't necessarily dislike them. I liked May's persistence. I enjoyed Trick's hacker edginess. But overall they felt bland. They also felt immature. May was 16 or 17, I think. She had a sulkiness that I associate with younger teenagers.
That leads me to another point, probably what bothered me most while reading the book. It felt very much like the author was an adult trying to write the way she thinks teens talk. You see this from the very first paragraph of the book: "May had a doctor's note saying she couldn't run around the track anymore because her asthma would totally kill her." I don't have a lot of interaction with teens today, but I don't know any who use "totally" like a 80s or 90s Valley Girl. This is just one example of several times throughout the book where I taken out of the book by jarring writing.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I have a lot of problems with it. I don't think it deserves any awards. However, if you can turn your mind off, it is a lot of fun and well worth the few hours it will take you to read it. Plus, the comic within the story is great.
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