A “Wicked Stepmother” of the Book World

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

I love Melissa Kantor. She’s one of my favourite YA authors. Some of her novels, like Girlfriend Material and Confessions of a Not It Girl, don’t even sit on my shelf anymore because I read them so much. She has a knack for getting that teen girl voice down and keeping it, something some YA authors have trouble with.

That said, I decided I’d read If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? I love Cinderella as much as any girl, and modernizations of fairy tales fill my bookshelf…and my flash drive. How bad could it be, right?

Wrong. As stated before, I love Melissa Kantor, and mean her no disrespect. But my personal opinion is that this book is better left unread.

Let me start with the meat and bones: the plot. Basically, this plot is as contrived as you can get.
-Teen Girl feels invisible.
-Popular Boy notices Teen Girl, and suddenly Teen Girl skyrockets to popularity.
-Teen Girl develops friendship with Artsy Boy, whom Popular Friends scorn.
-Ex-Girlfriend wants Popular Boy back.
-Teen Girl has family drama, but still fixes it.
-Teen Girl and Popular Boy go to the prom, but Teen Girl doesn’t feel things are right with Popular Boy.
-Popular Boy gets back together with Ex-Girlfriend, and Teen Girl realizes her deep, undying love for Artsy Boy, who is conveniently single now.
-All live happily ever after, the end.
Now, a few plot twists were thrown in. Artsy Boy has a girlfriend when Teen Girl first starts to notice him–and his girlfriend is Ex-Girlfriend’s best friend (read: cronie). And the Popular Friends remain Teen Girl’s friends after her breakup with Popular Boy. Otherwise, this is all something I’ve read before. A thousand times. The second Artsy Boy was introduced, I realized, “She’s going to date Popular Boy (the first guy mentioned) and end up with Artsy Boy (second boy mentioned).”
Another plot bunny (as we fanfic folk call it) is Teen Girl’s struggles with her “Evil Stepmother.” Said stepmother apparently refuses to furnish Teen Girl’s basement bedroom, relegating the room to a dungeon-like status, and then kvetches about the mess in the room. And every once in a while, they shop for furniture. But Kantor keeps revisiting the room issue, and in the words of Alex Day (YouTube series “Alex Reads Twilight.” WATCH IT. Especially if you don’t like Twilight.), “It’s like a subplot, only I don’t really care.” But in the end, Teen Girl’s father and stepmother buy her a lovely easel that she loves and promise a bedroom set soon.  And Teen Girl even saves her stepsisters’ butts, so they love her, too. Didn’t see that one coming. *NOTE: Heavy sarcasm.*

And moving on, the characters: Lucy, aka Teen Girl, is every teen girl rolled into one. She’s athletic and artsy, loves her dad and misses her mom, and goes shopping with her friends. I expect to see her in Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video. She’s also unknowingly coy, witty and lovable.
Connor, aka Popular Boy, is the athlete who doesn’t seem like he treats his girlfriend like dirt, but he does, unbeknownst to her or even him sometimes.
Jessica and Madison, aka Popular Friends, have no depth, shop a lot, and enjoy Daddy’s credit card and their cell phones. They shorten words like “whatever” to “whatevs” because it’s obviously too much work to say the extra syllable.
The Princesses, aka the stepsisters, are little brats who end up having a heart of gold. Who knew? (I did, by the way.)
Mara, aka the stepmother, is a fire-breathing dragon who’s apparently hyper-sensitive. Lucy warns us that everything she does either hurts Mara’s feelings or is dangerously close to hurting Mara’s feelings. I’m also pretty sure it says Maura somewhere in the book.
Sam, aka Artsy Boy, is stoic and doesn’t like school events (read: the prom). He nervously asks Lucy to be his girlfriend in the end, and they engage in some witty repartee. *NOTE: more heavy sarcasm*
Lucy’s father is absent or distant, and only cares about his wife. Jessica and Madison have goon boyfriends who enjoy the pleasure of Connor’s company. And I can’t remember Connor’s ex-girlfriend’s name or her friend’s cronie’s.
My problems with this book:
-The language: Note to my generation (sadly): “whatevs” is NOT a word. Nor is “b-t-dubs” a complete saying. “By the way” is also three syllables. Say it.
-The plot: SO CONTRIVED. What, was the idea machine low on batteries?
   teen-parent relationship: The way her father and stepmother are written…irks me. Pretty severely. I find them two-dimensional at best. Her stepmother is evil incarnate, not to mention totally unreasonable. And, yes, this is supposed to make me sympathetic to Lucy’s plight, but how am I supposed to sympathise with someone who can’t even seem to try to sympathise with her stepmother? And her father is also painted as unreasonable, someone who doesn’t even bother to pretend to listen to his daughter. Again, this does not make me sympathise, it makes me want to throw the book into my trash compactor. The parents are completely unreal, and it makes their turnaround in the end COMPLETELY unbelievable.

I hated this book. I DO NOT recommend it. Not even to my worst enemy. I felt my brain cells slowly die while reading it. Sorry, Melissa Kantor, but this one was NOT your finest.

Kantor, Melissa. If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? New York: Hyperion, 2005. Print.
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