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Literature: The Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries is a Young Adult book series by Meg Cabot following the exploits of Amelia "Mia" Thermopolis, a teenager who goes to Albert Einstein High School and lives with her strongly liberal single mom. Her life changes drastically when her father comes for a visit. After being treated for testicular cancer, he is no longer able to have children. Because of this, he finally tells Mia a secret he, her mother, and her grandmother ("Grandmere") have been keeping from her for years: he is really the Prince of the fictional principality of Genovia. Because of his illness and treatment, Mia is now Her Royal Highness of the country and the heir to the throne of Genovia.

Upon first hearing the news, Mia objects to the idea of having to become a princess and having to rule over Genovia. She also fears that this new status will make her an outcast at her school and would rather just be a normal teenager. The series follows Mia as she slowly adjusts to becoming a Princess and coming to terms with the idea of being a ruler.

In 2001, the first book was adapted into a movie starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. It was followed by a sequel in 2004, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Both movies have a large number of changes from the novels, with the second not resembling any plot point of any of the books with the exception of Mia's mother marrying her teacher and having a baby with him.

Tropes in the books include:

  • A-Cup Angst: Mia, a LOT.
  • Adaptation Decay: The movies are referenced humorously as In-Universe examples. Almost every time they come up in the books, Mia makes a snide remark. She has little problem with the first movie, aside from how they portray her grandmother and how they kill her dad. The second film is the one she critiques for the decay (Meg Cabot has said that she liked the first film and hated the sequel).
  • Adorkable: Mia, at some points.
  • All First Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Zigzagged, sometimes Mia writes like this, sometimes she doesn't. Not to mention that Mia really is an aspiring novelist so it would make sense for her to write like this.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: In book 5, Boris towards Lilly. Also, Lilly towards JP.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Averted, Lilly's parents are Jungian Psychiatrists and Mia tries for years to achieve self-actualisation.
  • Alpha Bitch: Lana Weinberger.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Poor, poor Perin.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Tina's father.
  • Bald of Awesome: Mia's father- she even compares him to Jean-Luc Picard.
  • Beta Couple: Originally, Boris and Lilly, later Boris and Tina. Briefly there was also JP and Lilly, before JP moved on to Mia and Lilly moved on to Kenny.
  • Betty and Veronica: Mia between Michael (Betty) and Josh (Veronica) in the first book (and movie). In the later books it's Mia between JP (Betty) and Michael (Veronica).
  • Big "NO!": Mia has a couple moments of these. Usually involving Grandmere.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: J.P. turns out to be a Manipulative Bastard who was mainly using Mia to get famous.
  • Blatant Lies: Lana's election speech in Book 6 is full of these- in essence, she tells the crowd that she'll get them exactly what they want, despite the fact that, as Mia knows, it'd be impossible to get it (and in some cases, getting it would be totally unfair on others).
  • Book Dumb: Mia considers herself this, but, apart from math, it's hard for the reader to tell.
    • Lana and Trish consider her pretty smart but she spends a lot of time with Teen Geniuses Lilly and Michael which gives her a very high standard of intelligence. She is not very good at math and science, but is very good at English and speaks seemingly fluent French at times.
  • Brick Joke: Mia's boyfriend suggests going bowling instead of going to prom. Years later, there is a reference to spending the night at an "all night bowling alley." Doubles as an unusual euphemism.
  • Cerebus Retcon: It's a Running Gag that after Mia and Michael get together she becomes neurotic about him breaking up with her because of her flaws and lack of accomplishments. Then she breaks up with him after learning of his sexual history, and as a result of the ensuing Trauma Conga Line needs therapy to realize that she has to become the change she wants to have, and to make great accomplishments.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Mia discovers that she's the princess of Genovia. Deconstructed, as it turns out to be a lot less fun than one might expect.
  • Character Overlap: One of the novels has Mia reference Sam from All-American Girl and Jess from 1-800-Where-R-U, two of Meg Cabot's other works.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Guy Who Hates It When They Put Corn In The Chili, JP Reynolds-Abernathy the Fourth ends up becoming Mia's boyfriend after she and Michael break up in the eighth book.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Tina is this sometimes. Mia comments several times that she "wonders what it's like in Tinaland. Everything must be very shiny there."
  • Comic-Book Time: Subverted. The series takes place over four years, as Mia attends high school but the release of the books took around ten years (the first one was published in 2000, the last in early 2009). Despite the use of Comic-Book Time, the books use heavy pop culture references and specific dates so it's pretty clear what year the book is set.
  • Consummate Liar: Mia. Although other characters eventually work out she has the tell of her nostrils flaring when she lies. JP counts too.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lilly Moscovitz. Mia herself sometimes.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Grandmere to almost everyone else.
  • Derailing Love Interests: JP in the last book.
  • Diary: A fictional example.
  • Dork Horse Candidate: Mia, and later, Lilly.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Mia, and later Boris and Lilly have their hair dyed blond when they undergo their makeovers.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted, more often than not Mia thinks her life would be much better if she wasn't a princess.
    Mia: (In her diary) Being royal loses a lot of its glamor once it actually happens to you.
  • Evil Matriarch: Grandmere. Is also a Cool Old Lady at times, as well as a Magnificent Bitch.
  • Extreme Doormat: MIA- the reason she lies all the time is to avoid hurting others by telling them her true feelings. This causes major problems for her.
  • First Boy Wins: Out of all her potential love interests throughout the series, Michael was not only the first one she met, but the first one she had a crush on.
  • Game of Nerds: viz., Michael's game.
  • Geeks, Nerds
  • Genius Ditz: Tina.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In universe. Lilly Tells It Like It Is wound up being very popular in Korea.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Subverted with Helen. On one hand she's a gorgeous, successful artist with a nice artist loft in Manhattan with an active social life. On the other hand she can only afford her home and Mia's school because Philippe pays for it all and Mia's childhood was full of moments of her mom messing up, like their power being cut off.
  • Grande Dame: Mia's grandmother.
  • Granola Girl: Mia is a vegetarian and often gives donations to Greenpeace.
  • Gray Eyes: Mia
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: JP. Mia doesn't want to date him because she just broke up with her long-time boyfriend. An article in the New York Post saying they should get together because they're both "so tall and blond" doesn't exactly help. Also, everyone thinks he's the perfect guy for her.
    • And a year and a half when she dating him Michael comes back from Japan. Mia still has feelings for him. Tina can tell, and constantly pesters her about it.
  • Heroic BSOD: Mia spends book 9 trying to pull herself out of clinical depression.
  • Hidden Backup Prince
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Perin and Ling Su.
    • Though Ling Su is mentioned to have a boyfriend in the first couple of books - it turns out in Volume X that any dates with boys either of them had was to pretend to be straight.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: For most of the series Mia wants to just go back to her old life.
  • Informed Ability: Tina is apparently smart enough to become a surgeon. we don't see much evidence of this but it's not impossible given her personality that she's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Both Michael and Mia suffer from this. Michael feels he needs to prove himself worthy of dating a princess, and Mia considers herself not intelligent enough to date a genius.
  • Insistent Terminology: Braid! isn't a play, it's a musical.
    • Applebee's doesn't have Bloomin' Onions, that's Outback.
  • Insufferable Genius: Lilly.
  • Ivy League For Everyone: Somewhat justified, as the series takes place at an upper class private school in New York.
    • And even then most don't get their first choice college and as Lana points out she (and perhaps some other students) have parents who are legacies.
    • In the election debate in book 6, Lana promises to get everyone into Ivy League schools if they elect her. Part of Mia's reaction and response is pointing out that nobody is guaranteed entrance to an Ivy League school, even if they had parents who went there.
    • Mia herself manages to be accepted to every Ivy League school. However, it is very obvious that she was only accepted because she is a Princess and a celebrity. This greatly disappoints Mia and she ends up not going to any of them as a result, preferring to go to Sarah Lawrence.
  • Jerk Jock: Josh Richter.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lilly and Grandmere. Michael at times, especially in the early books.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Mia sometimes thinks this, but the series plays with the trope.
    • Tina was a loner in high school due to her bodyguard and Overprotective Dad. When Mia sits with her, however, she finds out that Tina is Spoiled Sweet and thinks highly of everyone.
    • Played straight, then subverted in Book 7 with The Guy Who Hates It When They Put Corn In The Chili (aka JP Reynolds-Abernathy IV)
  • Love Triangle: Many, the main ones being Michael/Mia/JP, Mia/JP/Lilly, Lilly/Boris/Tina. Some more minor ones are Michael/Mia/Kenny, Mia/Michael/Judith, Boris/Lilly/Hank, Boris/Lilly/Jangbu, Mia/Josh/Lana.
  • The Makeover: Subverted in that Mia thinks her makeover makes her look worse, and after a while she goes back to looking like she normally does ("like a blonde Q-tip") and her looks aren't brought up very often after that.
  • Micro Monarchy: Genovia.
  • Mr Muffykins: Grandmere's poodle Rommel is a mix of type one and two of this trope.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: How Mia feels at the end of "Princess on the Brink".
  • Nerds Are Sexy
  • Nice Girl: Mia is this most of the time. Also Tina.
  • Noodle Incident: "I will apologize to the Genovian olive growers about that thing with the pits."
  • The Nose Knows: Mia frequently comments that she loves the smell of Michael's neck. In the last book, she realizes that there's a scientific explanation for it during her psychology exam.
  • Numbered Sequels - The UK versions of series have fun with this; the sequels are called The Princess Diaries: Take Two, The Princess Diaries: Third Time Lucky, The Princess Diaries: Mia Goes Fourth, The Princess Diaries: Give Me Five, The Princess Diaries: Sixsational, The Princess Diaries: Seventh Heaven, The Princess Diaries: After Eight, The Princess Diaries: To the Nines and The Princess Diaries: Ten Out of Ten.
  • Oblivious to Love: Mia. If you want to let her know about your romantic intentions, do not be subtle about it. Just straight up tell her or she will never realize it. Before they got together she thought Michael tutored her in algebra (daily) because she was Lilly's friend, that he asked about what she did on the weekend so they could do more algebra, that his song about her was just 'some guy' who liked 'a girl' and wandered about shirtless by accident. Yeah...
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Guy Who Hates It When They Put Corn In The Chili. It's revealed late in the series that his name is JP.
  • Opposites Attract: Mia considers herself and Michael this, as opposed to her Birds of a Feather relationship with JP, even finding a scientific explanation (see The Nose Knows above). In actuality, she and Michael have a lot in common, she just has a hard time seeing it that way.
  • Ordinary High-School Student
  • Parents as People: While they are Good Parents Mia's mother is a flighty artist and her father is a casanova prince, so they fall under this trope as well.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: More than once Mia's friends tease her about her weird love for two-dimensional guys, including "Hellboy, Tarzan, the Beast, Tom Sloane, and that hot soldier guy".
  • Pinocchio Nose: Mia's nostrils flare when she lies.
  • Politically-Active Princess: Mia.
    • Also Gender Inverted with Mia's dad, as it's actually wondered by one of the other characters why Phillipe bothers to run in the Genovian election, and Mia specifically responds with something similar to this trope.
  • Preppy Name: Justified as most of the characters are either royalty or are wealthy and actually go to prep school. John Paul Reynolds-Abernathy IV is probably the most egregious example.
    • Mia herself qualifies; her full name (and title) is Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Her Royal Highness the Princess of Genovia.
  • Punny Name: Mia's shrink, Dr. Knutz, which is lampshaded by Mia.
  • Quirky Curls: Mia started out with them but her make-over flat-ironed them away.
  • Race for Your Love: Subverted. Mia races to the airport to meet Michael before his plane leaves for Japan. She's too late - his flight has left.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: In-universe: Mia spends a couple of pages wangsting about how her grandmother took her to an expensive hairdresser. Same goes for painted nails. To be fair, part of her complaints are that they make her look like Lana.
    • In the last book when Mia's trying to publish the romance novel she wrote many people — namely JP and Grandmere— fuss over the fact it's a romance novel. Never mind that it's 400 pages long, she did tons of research on medieval times, she spent two years working on it, and it's actually one of the hardest genres to write well.
  • Really Gets Around: Mia's father to the point were it's kind of surprising she's his only kid.
  • Rebellious Princess: Mia
  • Rich Bitch: Lana and Trisha. They both get better.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Fat Louie.
  • Rousing Speech: Mia gives two. One when she's running against Lana for the post of Student Council President, and another when she gets invited to speak at a Domina Rei function.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Boris, who actually manages to turn hot later in the series.
    • Mia becomes this trope over the course of the series, which is Lampshaded by other characters in Book 10.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tina tends to ship her friends, especially Mia. Mia's mom and Mr G also seem to ship Mia/Michael. Grandmere however ships Mia/JP. Mia herself ships Boris/Tina in later books though its mostly to protect Boris from Lilly after she cheated on him.
    • In Book 9, Lana ships JP with Mia, believing that he can be her rebound guy. Later Lana, Trisha and Tina start to ship Mia/Michael when the latter reappears.
  • Shout-Out: Several, including Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Degrassi, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Sailor Moon.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Only in the first book.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lilly. Mia occasionally gets into this territory as well.
  • Straw Feminist: LILLY, to the point where she writes an "essay" about famous women she is jealous of and why they should all go away to a desert island for being beautiful. Keira Knightley and Halle Berry are some of the actresses on this list.
  • Super OCD: Mia obsesses about many, many things. Played for Laughs and Deconstructed. Her over the top obsessing over things can be funny but causes her a lot of stress that takes its toll on her mental health.
    • Lilly even calls Mia a "baby-licker" for fussing about Rocky's health (Rocky being Mia's younger half-brother), and Mia's mom starts nicknaming her that.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Some of Mia's actions look a lot less sympathetic once you hear Lana and Lilly's side of the story.
    • Also we the reader are supposed to view some of Mia's actions and thoughts as ridiculous, like if she and her friends believe they are behaving like intellectuals but are actually behaving like silly teenage girls (for example, Mia and Tina's inability to understand Ms. Martinez liking Pride and Prejudice for reasons other than "how hot Colin Firth looked"). However, since Mia is the one writing it, she doesn't understand how silly this comes across as. In fact this is one of the main sources of humor in the series.
  • The B Grade: played straight and averted. In book 6 Mia is horrified to get a B in English, her best subject. The B was mainly due to the fact her new English teacher didn't like the essay subject. On the other hand Mia is thrilled to get a B- in algebra.
  • The Snark Knight: Lilly, so, so much.
  • Talented Princess, Regular Guy: Inverted with Mia and Michael. Mia's relationships with JP and Kenny could also count, since they are both incredibly smart and talented as well.
  • The Atoner: Lilly becomes this in Book 10, after she created that nasty hate site about Mia and Michael found out about it. Mia takes a while to figure it out, though.
  • The Talk
  • Their First Time: In the later books, Mia and Michael plan for this, but it is called off by Mia when it turns out it ISN'T his first time.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in books 9 and 10. Also, Lilly and Michael's parents question Mia when she goes over to their apartment and Lilly tries to imitate them.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Tina does this, making her Genre Savvy in a romantic comedy series. Mia sometimes lapses into this.
  • This Is Reality: In Book 10, Mia tries this mindset by saying "Life is not a romance novel" after Michael walks out of her birthday party on seeing JP invite Mia to prom with a "promise ring.". The book itself subverts this, however.
  • Transsexual: Ronnie, Mia's neighbor.
  • Two Decades Behind: Tons of references to classic 80's teen movies and TV shows like Party of Five and Charmed..
  • Twice Shy: A thousand times Mia and Michael. It's implied Michael's had feelings for Mia long before the beginning of the series, and Mia realizes she has a crush on him during the first book. Even though Everyone Can See It and they hang out every day, they take three books to admit they love each other, even dating other people in the middle. To finally clear things up they resort to sending anonymous love letters and replying via a computer program.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The whole series references the events, pop culture, and the fashions of the The Nineties and the 2000s can make a new reader have to search the internet for what they are referencing; it's also so when they reference the deceased Dick Clark hosting the New Years Celebration in "Holiday Princess".
  • Unreliable Narrator: While Mia doesn't mean to lie in her diary, she often has memory lapses or a rose-tinted/melodramatic reaction to what is going on around her and completely misinterprets people's motives.
  • Visual Pun: In Princess In the Spotlight, Lilly wears a black slip and a beard for her Halloween costume. She's a Freudian Slip.
  • What Does She See in Him?/What Does He See In Her?: This trope goes both ways in the relationship between Mia and Michael. And Mia keeps asking herself this, which creates a lot of Wangst.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Tina, whenever romance is involved. Subverted a bit when Tina reveals to Mia that she's been sleeping with Boris regularly for about a year or so, but she still has an overly idealistic attitude about love.
    • Mia can also be like this when romance is involved, as pointed out by her parents.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Michael and Mia in the first three books, and then again in the last one. They do. Twice.
  • With Friends Like These...: Lilly is a horrible friend, but for much of the series she's one of the few friends that Mia has.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Mia herself, to the point where you start to wonder if she has dyscalculia or a similar disorder related to numbers.

My Sister's KeeperChick LitSewing Circle
Pride and PrejudiceRomance NovelA Promise of Roses
Princess BenYoung Adult LiteraturePrivate
Princess BenLiterature of the 2000sThe Princess 99

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