Caletti, Deb. 2009. The Secret Life of Prince Charming. Simon & Schuster. 322 pages.
When it came to love, my mother's big advice was that there were WARNING SIGNS.
I haven't always appreciated each and every Deb Caletti novel. Some I've loved, some I've only liked, and one I've disliked quite a bit. But what Caletti does--and quite well--is write beautifully and authentically. She has a way with words, a way with phrasing things just right so that the reader can relate. She's good at capturing the little things, the small details, that make up ordinary life. The Secret Life of Prince Charming is the story of a girl. It's not an ordinary, traditional romance. If anything it is more of an un-romance. Here we have all the gritty little details of the unhappily ever afters.
Quinn, our heroine, has heard all these stories about men all her life. How they can disappoint you, hurt you, break you, scar you, anger and frustrate you as well. Her mother. Her grandmother. Her aunt. Just to name a very few. Quinn has taken these words of warning seriously. Opting to go for the obviously-safe choices when it comes to love than the more dangerous (albeit more temptingly fun and passionate) choices. But even being safe when it comes to her love life--the ever-boring Daniel--doesn't keep her safe. Boring doesn't mean safe; nice doesn't always mean good. Does Daniel breaking up with her hurt her? Yes and no. Her pride more than anything, since her relationship lacked spark and life. He was there, but that was about it.
But the more significant relationship--though a bit off screen--is the relationship between Quinn and her father. Though her parents have been divorced a long time, though her mother never loses an opportunity to complain about her ex, Quinn feels the need to have him in her life. She wants to have a good relationship with him, even if it means allowing for his mistakes and ignoring the stupid things her father does.
But some things can't be ignored. When she discovers that her father has 'stolen' sentimental (and sometimes quite valuable) items from many (if not all) of his former lovers, then Quinn along with her two sisters (one older, one younger) set out on a quest, a road trip, to return all these items to their rightful owners. Along the way, she'll speak with each ex and learn more about her father; she's trying to piece together why her father is the way he is. Trying to make sense of who he is from what he has done.
If you're looking for a young adult book that is strictly romance, then this one may disappoint. If however you're looking for a complex story showcasing humanity--for better or worse--then this one should satisfy. It's about dynamic family relationships--Quinn's relationship with her mother, her father, her younger sister, Sprout, her older half-sister, Frances. It's a coming-of-age story as well.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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