CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
As if Adrianna (Andy) Bottom doesn’t have enough to worry about just being a teenager, her family is now the newest reality T.V. program showcasing her family’s rags-to-riches life based on her father’s patented glow-in-the-dark Bowl Buddy and his company, Bottom’s Bathrooms and Accessories. Moving from Seattle to California, Andy is hoping to recreate herself from a bullied “mayor of Geeksville” to an accepted and popular teen. However, this isn’t as simple as it seems even though she has a stylist and a new start.
Starting a new year at Beverly Hills High, Andy (now to be called Adrianna because it sounds better for the show) is trying to start over by wearing the right clothes and making the right friends. Her first day she meets the stunning Harper, the most popular girl in school. Things are looking up for Adrianna, but humiliation sets in as the designer skirt her stylist made her wear rips completely and everyone sees her Wonder Woman underwear, even the camera. Wrapping a sweater around her waist, Adrianna runs away from school and right to the shops. With some new jeans, she decides to walk around, but is soon spotted by Corbin, the director, and the camera crew. Adrianna tries to hide from them by ducking into a nearby shop. To her surprise, it’s a bathroom store - like she can’t escape her life for a second! The only consolation is that she meets Kevin, who not only works at the shop, but is also in Adrianna’s Biology class. They haven’t really met before, but Kevin is not afraid to be himself, and Adrianna finds out they have a lot in common. Before long, Kevin tells her that he’s involved in Live Action Role Play (LARP). Since she’s a geek at heart, she finds this interesting, but it goes against everything the “new Adrianna” is supposed to be about.
Adrianna continues to hang out with Harper while trying to figure out how to deal with her new popularity and on-camera life. She starts to learn how hard it is to be popular when Harper tells her to avoid Kevin like the plague because he’ll be a popularity killer. Harper has other friends in her group as well, friends that Adrianna shortly starts referring to as SPAM (Starr, Prissy, Amber, Mercedes). This new life is getting more difficult to take! Between the new rules and the fact that Harper’s ex (who Harper still secretly likes) just keeps hitting on Adrianna despite her rejections, Adrianna is just looking for an escape where no one knows her. There’s only one place she can go - LARPing.
The best thing about LARPing is that anyone can join without revealing who they really are. Since Kevin told Adrianna where and when the group meets, she’s ready for a little escape. Besides that, Adrianna is able to make her own persona and her own costume, reconnecting her with her geekdorable roots. Donning a masked costume, Adrianna joins the LARP group and has a great time while getting closer to Kevin. The imaginary world seems a perfect escape, but Kevin’s sister, Keelie, threatens to reveal Adrianna and destroy her dual life as well as her budding relationship with Kevin.
Adrianna’s life continues to complicate as her carefully crafted dual life begins to unravel. In a last effort to make things right with Kevin, her family, and herself, Adrianna blackmails the drama hungry Corbin to help her pull off one of the largest LARP events ever. In the end, Adrianna throws off her mask (literally and figuratively) and happily accepts herself just as she is.
Griffin does a great job of building rounded and distinct main characters. The plot builds with twists and turns that add to the suspense of the story and are successfully resolved by the end of the novel. Using the imaginative world of Live Action Role Play against the immediacy of reality television presents an interesting contrast. As Adrianna’s character continually tries to escape her life and recreate herself into someone she thinks she wants to be, in the end, she accepts who she truly is and find happiness in that. In contrast, Kevin’s character never changes. He openly celebrates the person he is even in the face of bullying. These are strong and positive messages, and Secrets of a Reluctant Princess would be a great read for any young adult.
Penta Ledger is a teacher-librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.
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