Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill, 56 pp, RL 4
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill
Published by Oni Press
Purchased at The Strand Bookstore
Princess Princess Ever After is hilarious, fast paced - both in plot and dialogue - and groundbreaking. I can't believe how much O'Neill packs into 56 pages and how absolutely commonplace this story about two princesses who fall in love is. Back in 2012 when I reviewed Drama by Raina Telgemeier, I buried the fact that there are gay characters, questioning characters and a kiss between two boy actors, one of whom is playing the part of a girl character. As a bookseller dealing with a public (in my small, right-leaning-heavily-Christian city) that I knew would not be comfortable with this, I worried that my readers might share the same feelings of discomfort surrounding LGBTQIA+ characters in kid's books. It's so exciting to me that today I can write about a book like Princess Princess Ever After and, while I am still giddy that diversity in kid's books is growing, I also feel like I don't have to shout about how amazing this book is because one princess rescues another and together they support each other, respect each other and love each other. What I really want to shout about is that crazy, pink, cookie-loving unicorn Celeste, Princess Amira's trusty steed.
When Princess Amira turned sixteen and realized that her parents expected her to marry a prince from another kingdom as part of her royal duty, she gave up her life of privilege and a home where there wasn't a place for her and headed out to make a place of her own. And, with a "sword, a unicorn, and kick-butt hair," Princess Amira is ready to rescue anyone and claim the mantle of hero.
Princess Sadie has been locked in a tower (with a dragon guard named Oliver who turns out to be more of a cuddly pal) since her father, the king, died and her older sister Claire refused to share monarch duties with her big-boned, sobbing little sister. Using her mean-girl-magic, Claire has convinced Sadie that she's too (fill in the blank - fat, stupid, weak, stupid) to survive outside her tower. But, when Princess Amira arrives to rescue her and it becomes a joint effort, Sadie slowly gains confidence.
The two stop to make a second rescue, however when Prince Vladric (tossed into a tree by a marauding ogre) declines to be rescued by two women, he earns the name Prince Butthead. While this is definitely a girl-power story, O'Neill adds a layer of depth to the Prince who reluctantly reveals that he feels burdened by expectations and pressures of being a boy/prince. She also allows him to grow and find his place by the end of the story.
In the climax, the tables turn and Sadie rescues Amira, some help coming from an unexpected place. With the overwhelming support of her subjects and Princess Amira, Sadie assumes the throne, under the guidance of royal advisors. In my favorite moment of the book, Amira says to Sadie, "Before I met you, I totally thought I knew what a hero was. But now I can see how much I still have to learn," and she asks Sadie to wait for her while she continues her quest for knowledge and experience. A magnificent smile on her face, Sadie replies, "Of course!" An epilogue gives readers some banter between Princess Amira and Prince Vladric as they head to a royal wedding - Sadie and Amira's wedding!
Also by Katie O'Neill!