If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? // by Melissa Kantor

I don’t really know how this little tale got added to my TBR, but there it was, waiting to be read.  While it was a decent read, some of it was a little too cliche for my tastes, leaving me with an overall 3/5.

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//published 2005//

 

Lucy, who tells the story (thankfully in past tense), is living in Long Island with  her new stepmother and twin stepsisters.  Her dad is still spending most of his time back in San Francisco, finishing up his job, so Lucy feels lonely and out of place in her new house.  She thinks her stepmother is shallow and unfair, and that her stepsisters are spoiled and annoying.  Starting sophomore year in a new high school also means that she’s having trouble adjusting there – it’s never easy to find friends when everyone else found their friends the year before.

So, things I liked about this book (fyi, mild spoilers, but on the other hand, it’s not like this book was full of unexpected twists) –

First off, I actually did like Lucy.  While she was a little annoying sometimes (most 16-year-olds are) and a little unreasonable sometimes (which most 16-year-olds are), overall she was a likable protagonist who was just trying to adjust to her new life.

Another thing I liked was that Kantor didn’t make the popular kids automatically horrible.  The two girls who befriend Lucy actually end up being really nice, and the basketball star she dates is just a typical high school guy – not super introspective, perhaps, but not a total jerk.

Lucy loves basketball, and is knowledgeable about it, but at the same time she is also a really good artist and really into that.  This was maybe my favorite concept of this book – I really, really liked the fact that Kantor portrayed someone who could like two really different things: sports and art.  So often, authors act as those these are opposing hobbies, and that if you like both, you must be lying about one of them.  The fact that Lucy was into both of these things gave her more depth as a person and made her more realistic.  In real life, most people like a lot of things, and they are frequently things that other people wouldn’t automatically put together.

But while all of these things were good, it almost felt like Kantor was afraid to follow through on them.  It was as though she got partway through the book and then began to get nervous that people wouldn’t like the way she was straying from the typical YA path.  So we end up with Lucy not being able to date the basketball star any more, because the “only” thing he likes about Lucy is that she likes basketball.  Instead, she ends up with the artsy dude.  And yeah, artsy dude was a nice guy, but as far as I could tell, the “only” thing he liked about Lucy was that she was into art, so how does that make the artsy dude better than the basketball dude?  Apparently, though, if you like someone because they like art, you are liking the “real” person, while if you like someone because they like sports, you are only liking the “shallow/not real” person.  That kind of annoyed me.  To me, either both of these guys don’t completely understand Lucy (because artsy dude knows absolutely nothing about basketball and thinks it’s kind of stupid), or Kantor should have found another reason to make it reasonable for Lucy to switch her allegiance to artsy dude.  I think Kantor was trying to avoid making basketball dude a villain (which was a nice change of pace from most YA), but in the end she made basketball dude look like a douche for doing the exact thing that artsy dude was doing, and I didn’t like the double standard.

I also didn’t completely buy the sudden change of heart of Lucy’s stepmother, although I do think that Kantor was trying to portray that it wasn’t just a change on the stepmother’s end – that Lucy was also becoming more accepting of her situation and her new family.  However, that wasn’t really very explicit, so it felt like suddenly, magically, the stepmother was this nice lady.  And I just find it really hard to believe that Lucy’s dad, who is supposed to be super fond of her, would really find Lucy’s complete lack of furniture in her bedroom for months to be acceptable.

While there were some fun moments in this book and it was a fine one-off read, nothing about it thrilled me or made me yearn to seek out more of Kantor’s work.  A moderately good YA read, but nothing magical.