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.
Tell Me More: After years and years of reading YA, one tends to develop a wishlist of things one desperately wants to see in novels. At the top of my wishlist is a female friendship that is given the same weight and importance as romantic relationships. Platonic soulmates, if you will, and a story that challenges and inspires the girls involved. I Am Princess X is that book.
May and Libby are simply precious, and precocious, and I was invested in their character development before I ever got past the first chapter. There’s a vulnerability there, hanging side-by-side with the immense potential that both these girls have, that makes them feel real. They seem like the young girls you see on the sidewalk in the summer, laughing without restraint as they play with their friends. They felt like the kind of girl I wanted to be as a kid, but May and Libby are luckier, because they have each other.
The writing style may throw off some YA-only readers, as Priest uses a more matter-of-fact, third-person tone as May begins to search for Libby. Princess X sits on the fence between middle-grade and YA, taking on that awkward transition without belittling its characters. May’s concern for Libby might be dismissed by some of the adults around her, but Priest lets her story develop without judgment. The story is paced just right, letting May uncover clues and figure out connections without making the reader feel impatient and bored.
Part of that development comes through the use of the Princess X webcomic, which the reader can follow as May begins to work through it. Kali Ciesemier’s art is intense, its dark violet tones heightening the suspense and bringing the story and its two mediums full circle.
The Final Say: I Am Princess X hinges on Cherie Priest’s ability to capture the connection between platonic soulmates on the page, and rest assured, she does it admirably.
Cherie Priest is the author of over a dozen novels, including the steampunk pulp adventures The Inexplicables, Ganymede, Dreadnought, Clementine, and Boneshaker. Boneshaker was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; it was a PNBA Award winner, and winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Cherie also wrote Bloodshot and Hellbent from Bantam Spectra; Fathom and the Eden Moore series from Tor; and three novellas published by Subterranean Press. In addition to all of the above, her first foray into George R. R. Martin’s superhero universe, Fort Freak (for which she wrote the interstitial mystery), debuted in the summer of 2011. Cherie’s short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in such fine publications as Weird Tales, Publishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband, a big shaggy dog, and a fat black cat.