The Secret Life of Prince Charming is my first Deb Caletti book, and it won’t be my last. Funny that it’s taken me so long because her books seem to always be featured in the teen section at my local library. Now I feel like I’ve found something really good that has been in front of me for a long time and I wonder why nobody nudged me in Caletti’s direction before. It was the premise of Prince Charming that made me download the audiobook and I’ve been listening little by little all summer long on my morning walks with the pooch. I finally finished a few days ago and I’m already thinking about which of her books to read, or listen to, next.
Quinn has spent years listening to the women in her family complain about the men in their lives and make mistakes in love again and again. It would be difficult not to be jaded or at the very least wary of relationships when your mom has posted a list on the fridge of red flags and warning signs for dating, beginning with “He has a victim attitude” and ending with “Everyone but you sees his bad side.” Still, Quinn thinks she’s found a pretty good guy in Daniel, until he cheats on her. She certainly isn’t going to get any advice in the love department from her dad Barry, who has come back into her life only recently after a long absence. Barry has gone through a lot of women since Quinn’s mom, and Quinn hasn’t really stopped to think much of it until her dad dumps Brie, the girlfriend both Quinn and her little sister Charlotte really liked. Soon after this, Quinn realizes that her dad has stolen one important object from every woman he’s ever walked away from, and he’s assembled them all in this weird museum. Of course, he doesn’t know that she knows, so it comes as a big surprise when Quinn decides to take every single one of these prized possessions and return them to their rightful owners. Quinn, Charlotte and their wild half-sister Frances Lee set out with this stuff on a wacky road trip / quest, hoping to learn more about their dad and right some of his wrongs along the way.
I knew that I had found an author worth admiring when I kept on wanting to pause my iPod and write down perfectly phrased little snippets (pretty much impossible to do when you’re hanging onto a fast-trotting hound at the end of a leash). Eventually it got to the point when I knew I should be reading this book instead of listening to it, because I tend to appreciate the writing more when I read and have a chance to linger and go back again. Deb Caletti just knows how to put things. (I would have an example if I had a book in front of me. Instead, I have an iPod. Not as good). She’ll come up with a particular comment to reveal a character’s behavior or emotion and you’ll think, “Wow, I get it.” There will be phrases you’ll want to use for yourself to describe people you know and situations you find yourself in. All along, I was thinking that I was experiencing a story written by someone who really observes and knows people, and better yet, who knows how to pass on what she’s noticed and pondered in the characters she creates.
In my weekends this summer working at the bookstore (*sighing happily/nostalgically*), one of my fellow bookselling gals commented on how she liked the way Caletti allows her adult characters to feature prominently in her novels. I hadn’t really thought about that, but I completely agree. So often in YA, the grown ups are either barely there or they’re absent altogether. Some of my favourite characters, and some of the most complex characters, are the adults in this book. That’s a lot of what this book is about, the collective wisdom of a bunch of adult women on what it means to love and be in love. If you visit Deb Caletti’s site, you can read about what inspired this book, and you’ll understand just how personal a story it is. I think you’ll feel this in the writing.
Parents, take note. This is a book you want to give to your teenage daughter to get her thinking about that guy she’s dating and how she really feels about him in the grand scheme. Heck, I can think of a lot of thirty-somethings who could pull some right-on-the-money advice on men out of this book. There’s that, and then you’ll think a lot about choices, little and big, the people we call family, taking risks to find truth, and making things right.
You should listen to and watch this wonderful interview with Deb by Nancy Pearl – makes me want to read all the rest of her books really soon. Oh, and the audiobook is narrated beautifully by Jeannie Stith.
The Secret Life of Prince Charming is published by Simon Pulse.