Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X
Cherie Priest

Arthur A Levine Books
Released May 26, 2015
256 pages
YA / Comics / Thriller

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Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen; illustrated throughout with comics.

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. 

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X? 

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There's an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby's story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon---her best friend, Libby, who lives.

There are some books that I have to file away in my head to share with my niece whenever she becomes of an appropriate age to enjoy them. Considering she just turned 3, I have a ways to wait before she’ll be ready for I Am Princess X, but I’m already so excited to share it with her. Cherie Priest’s first foray into YA is a fast-paced real world story that has an odd glimmering feel of fantasy in its use of a story within the story by way of a web comic. This is definitely a realistic/contemporary fiction story, but using a second story built around a fantasy realm made me keep forgetting this was more realism than swords and elves.

I Am Princess X follows May as she unravels the story behind the web comic Princess X. May developed the character of Princess X with her best friend Libby in fifth grade, but Libby died three years ago in a car wreck. So who started up a web comic with their Princess X character and why does it seem like it’s filled with clues that only May could decipher? Is Libby still alive? As May continues to read the web comic, she discovers clue after clue that leads her to believe that Libby is alive and in danger. After recruiting Trick, the computer genius that lives upstairs, she goes on a wild goose chase through Seattle to find out the truth about her missing best friend.

There is something altogether charming and addicting in I Am Princess X. Perhaps it’s the interspersed comic book pages in purple ink showing the adventures of Princess X trying to escape from the Needle Man or maybe it’s just how much friendship drives this story that made me love it so much. May never doubts that Libby is the writer of the comic and must be alive somewhere. She doesn’t consider the dangers of going into places she’s not meant to go or the potential dangers from a mysterious kidnapper. All she knows is that her best friend is in trouble and she must help. That friendship-conquers-everything mentality is something so rarely seen between two girls in the fiction that I read that it was so refreshing and filled me with such joy to read about it.

There are also no romances in I Am Princess X. The two male characters introduced are just platonic friends with no hints or under-pining of romance. This is all about May and Libby and their undying, unbeatable bond as friends. Whether that means running across Seattle, being chased by a deranged lunatic in an SUV or throwing oneself in front of a gun, May never got distracted from her main objective – finding and saving her friend.

I know I’m repeating myself, but it was such an addictive and unusual message that made me love I Am Princess X from the beginning to the end. The addition of the web comics pushed my adoration of this book over the top. I liked figuring out the hints and clues hidden within the comic’s dialogue and images alongside May. I always like when novels incorporate another medium or writing format into the greater novel. The art is pretty simple but filled with meaning and emotion.

I just really, really loved this book. Can you tell yet? I loved that May dad doesn’t dismiss her concerns and theories when she confesses she believes Libby is alive. I loved that the girl gets to be the hero and defend herself and her fight for what’s right. I just really loved this book and I hope that everyone else will love it too. It’s not a complicated book, but it’s full of heart and great messages for girls and women of all ages I think. It’s also a fun little conspiracy plot with a comic interwoven, so it’s really a win all around. I hope Cherie Priest writes more in the YA genre. It really works for her.