Just 2/2 this past weekend with books with characters that irritated me–characters that act in ways that seem contradictory to their stated goals, for the purposes of creating tension. Which is funny because in this book we have a fish out of water teenager who learns that she is actually a member of the Japanese royal family! There is already many opportunities for drama!
It would also be fair to admit that I was, at almost all points, comparing this novel to the Undisputed Queen (ha) of the I’m A Princess SHUT UP genre, i.e. The Princess Diaries. Which I believe is unfair–those books are much longer (10! and counting last I checked), it’s not like they don’t also have better and worse books, and I think the recent attempt by Cabot to cash in on residual nostalgia to start her middle school spin off imprint was ill formed. But you always felt like Mia Thermopolis, in her literary and film iterations, had a fully formed, consistent characterization.
Izumi, however, acts in all sorts of ways that are contrary to her stated and internalized goals–with the end result of hiLaRiTy but also nonsense. For example, with no spoilers: when she realizes she’s a princess, she decides to visit Japan for two weeks (while missing school! and her senior year! and time with her beloved friends! why not just wait until senior year is over??? I digress) because she’s super curious as to what her father is like.
>>Also leave aside/let’s disregard (the way the book does) the complicated feelings her mother must be having, and maybe sympathetic complicated feelings Izumi might also have as a result–single mother, built a life for daughter, daughter is now ditching life for man who abandoned her.<<
So, of course, for the very long trip to Japan that Izumi has in front of her, she is given dossiers with information on her family–a veritable guide to all the inner workings of the Imperial Family, what she should expect, etc. You’d think that this insatiable curiosity (that, again, caused her to ditch her life and senior spring of high school with friends she adores) would drive her to devour this binder. But no, she spends the entire trip watching Downtown Abbey (because she’s aDoRkAbLe) and so doesn’t recognize her bodyguard sitting in the same cabin. Nor anyone else, nor does she know what she’s going to be doing when she leaves, or where she’s going to go, nothing. So she can get into lots of scrapes! Say the wrong thing to the prime minister! Stumble over her introduction to her family! Not recognize the most obvious duplicity! Barge into sensitive personal situations with people who aren’t yet comfortable with her, because she’s spending no effort to be sensitive.
It’s not a characterization, in my opinion, it’s a way to create a Dramatic Situations including with the heterosexual lead (since he’s the only one approximately her age and not related to her in the entire book, and heaven forbid she not have a cute boy to drool over while she’s trying to deal with complex issues around parentage and family and culture and belonging). Izumi continues to be slapdash in her approach to all situations, in a way that maybe reads to someone as reasonable for her age but to me just reads like we’re trying for as much “gee shucks I’m from California and what am I doing in Tokyo” as can be packed into this short a book.