The Princess Diaries Review + Movie Comparison (Princess Diaries #1)

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The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, #1)
Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there’s nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra. Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she’s dating Mia’s Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn’t have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

When I was around 10 years old, I saw the Princess Diaries movie on TV. I instantly fell in love with it, and I adored Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. When I saw the first three books in the series at a local bookstore a few years ago, I decided to pick them up. It took me forever to get around to reading them, but I had high hopes for them. Boy, was I disappointed.

For starters, the book is very, VERY different from the movie. Here are a few of the major differences.

The story takes place in Manhattan instead of San Francisco, which should have made the story more relatable to me as I live fairly close to Manhattan.

Mia’s father, the prince, isn’t dead like he is in the film. He is infertile because he has had testicular cancer, but it hasn’t killed him. At least, cancer hasn’t killed him yet, I don’t know if he ends up actually dying later in the series. This changes the story entirely. Now, when Mia’s mother dates someone else, she also has to deal with her ex-boyfriend being around a lot as he tries to teach her daughter to be a princess. He also just has a bunch of random girlfriends that Mia has to deal with every time she went to visit him. In the movie, Mia’s father is portrayed as a “good man,” and the cause of his death is not discussed.

Another difference is that Mia knows her grandmother, and her grandmother is portrayed as a horribly mean woman. Julie Andrews may have been strict in the movie, but she wasn’t a bitter old woman. She was the one who told Mia that she was a princess in the movie and the one who supported her. I hated the grandmother in this version, and even if I did read the rest of the series, I don’t think that she will redeem herself. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the Princess Diaries movie was because of Mia’s relationship with her grandmother, as she taught her grandmother how to be a regular person instead of a royal. That would never happen in this series, as Mia doesn’t have a good relationship with her grandmother at all.

So those are the main differences, and some of the issues that I had with the book at first. Now, let’s talk about the characters in the book.

Mia was honestly annoying even before she was a princess and got her “makeover.” Her “inner diary dialogue” irritated me as I was reading this book the entire way through. On page 7, she says “How come nice people like Princess Diana get killed in car wrecks but mean people like Lana never do?” When I read that, I thought, “Wow, that’s harsh.” But I continued on, thinking she would get better eventually. We’ve all thought mean things about bullies before. 4 pages later, she says that she hopes that she notices if the school “hot guy” starts sexually harassing her someday. Sexual harassment is not something that most girls wish for, but I let it go and continued to read.

What automatically made me lose most of my respect for her was when she talked about the Blind Guy. This Blind Guy had a game of asking women to walk him across the street, just to feel them up on the other side and pretend it was an accident. When I heard this, I automatically went “Wtf?” Like, I’ve been to New York many times and have never seen anything like this happen, but even if it did, someone would report it. Especially if he was doing it repeatedly to women of all ages, including underage high schoolers. But Mia doesn’t feel bad about this in any way, no, she says “Just my luck, the only guy who’s ever felt me up (not that there’s anything to feel) was BLIND.” Like, what 14-year-old girl thinks that after ACTUALLY being sexually harassed/assaulted by a grown man on the street.

Then there were other small things about Mia that irritated me throughout the book. Her dad gives her five bucks to tip the bathroom assistant, she only gives the assistant one because she feels she deserves 4 because her allowance every week is only 10. This was in 2000, and you could get a full fast-food meal for less than 5 bucks!

Lilly is Mia’s best friend who runs her own TV show. A running joke throughout the book is how she has a foot fetishist named Norman as a stalker, who keeps sending her gifts to get her to take off her shoes during the show. I don’t know how someone can not take a grown man stalking a 14-year-old seriously, but in this book, it’s just a joke. I could stand Lilly in the movie, but I didn’t like her that much in this movie. She was so addicted to creating her show that she would get mad at Mia whenever Mia couldn’t help her make an episode. Mia never actually blew Lilly off, she never did anything to sabotage the show, she was just occasionally busy with her princess duties. But this didn’t matter to Lilly. If you weren’t 100% beside her in everything she did, you were against her, even if you were her best friend. I couldn’t stand this character trait, and I honestly wished that Mia would just make new friends and drop Lily.

The two things that I actually liked about this book were Tina and Josh. Josh is the love interest and school hot guy, and the main focus of the movie is how he goes out with Mia one time. This is not the main focus of the book, thank God, even though the scene basically plays out the same way. If I had liked Mia as a character, I would have enjoyed getting to know her more instead of just focusing on her going out with someone.

Tina was also a really unique character, with her overprotective father and teen romance novels. She had a bodyguard like Mia, and Mia decided to become her friend whenever Lilly decided to stop speaking to her. I think that she was honestly my favorite character in the series, as she was always supportive of Mia and never super-judgemental like Lilly. I hope that Mia and Tina stay friends throughout the series, and don’t end up having to go their separate ways.

Overall, I definitely would not recommend this book, just watch the movie. Mia in this novel is not a good role model for teen girls, and she is not even a realistic 14-year-old. And trust me, it does not get better. This was only about a month of story, as the next book picks up in October of the same year!

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 5 books

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Published by

Alex(BriennaiJ)

Book, game, movie, TV, and webcomic reviewer

28 thoughts on “The Princess Diaries Review + Movie Comparison (Princess Diaries #1)

  1. I could not agree with your review more! Like you, I saw the movie when I was young and loved it. But when I read the books (and I read at least six or more of them–I don’t know why I kept hoping they would get better), I absolutely hated them! It’s so rare to find a movie that is better than the book, but in my opinion, this one is!

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    1. Thanks for commenting! The movie was definitely SO much better than the books, I was almost insulted every time I started one of these books and it said “the books teen girls are loving.” Like, okay some girls might relate to this, but I’m sure most will think Mia is as shallow as I saw her. I have to say that I did like the third book more than the first two, but I have no more books to continue with. The next two reviews will be up over the next few days!

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  2. Oh gosh I relate to this review- even though it’s years since I read this. I had such high hopes after the movie. I *hated* the grandmother too (and she didn’t get better as the series went on as far as I was concerned). I also thought Mia was irritating and wasn’t a fan of Lilly. Great review!

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    1. Thanks for commenting! I think Lilly was definitely my biggest disappointment, I had such high hopes for her and then she just came off as being so bossy. In the movie she was the cool girl with a TV show, in this book she was the weird genius who has a TV show and bullies her friend into everything. And I’m sad that the grandmother doesn’t get better.

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  3. I was 5 when the first Princess Diaries film came out and my dad took me to see it on the basis that I sat watching Mary Poppins on repeat and he thought I’d like to see Julie Andrews in a modern film. Having loved it, I got the first couple of books the following Christmas and to be fair as a kid I didn’t really get the entire concept of them but I’m a little horrified seeing now was 6 year old me must have read without fully understanding! The film is definitely more family-friendly and the characters 100% more likeable. I vaguely remember in a later Princess Diaries book that they reference the films and Mia says how she hates that they made her grandma seem nice among other things, which is a real dig from the author considering how many people must have bought the books on the back of seeing the films!

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    1. Wow, I didn’t even realize that the author put that in the book! That’s kind of a mean thing to do, coming at the movie like that, as it DID help people to notice the book. She was probably just mad at the bad reviews it was getting from people like me who saw the amazing movie first. 😂 I was only 1 when the first film came out, so I didn’t even know about the film until it was on TV in 2010-2011. And now I’m 18 reading the books, so I definitely notice a lot more.

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      1. Yeah, I think she was mad that they changed so much of her plot and characters (even though it made them way better and more beloved!). Hopefully Princess Diaries 3 will be a go soon and we can relive our childhoods 🙂

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      2. They are making a third movie 😮 I’m excited for it! But dang, she seems sort of shady after that. Like rick riordan’s movie ruined his books but he never like attacked the actors or the creators, he just sorta laughed it off

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Yeah I was only 1 when the movie came out and 0 when the first book came out, so I was pretty much guaranteed to see the movie on TV years later before even noticing the series in the library

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  4. Great comparison with this one. The movie was good, the book and some of its characters are just horrendous as you’ve talked about in your review. Sometimes you really do have to give up for the movie instead of the book.

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  5. Oh dear. I totally love the films.
    I actually recommended these books to a very advanced reader at work (I’m a teacher) and she’s 11. I thought they’d match the film. I’m So pleased we couldn’t find them in the school library. She’s read Pullman but I don’t like what this book seems to promote.
    Great comparison.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I seem to find that a lot of books from the early 2000s that were advertised as “girls’ series” seem to be quite problematic. I might review a few more like gossip girl or a few of those other super-long series to see if I am correct.

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