The Wide-Awake Princess, Book 1

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
The Wide-Awake Princess, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Offbeat princess tale values girls with skills over looks.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The Wide-Awake Princess espouses positive messages about autonomy and resourcefulness in girls, the importance of being your authentic self, and finding a match who appreciates you for you rather than for some perceived beauty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although many characters are simplistically good or bad, the main characters are conscientious and honest and act with integrity. They value skill and independence and treat others with respect and kindness.

Violence

There's some minor peril throughout the book, largely drawn from the referenced fairy tales. In one scene, a witch intends to fatten up two lost children she finds in the woods to eat them. There are cages designated for their keeping. In another, a man nearly drowns but is saved. In a final scene, there is some battling with swords, but there are no graphic injuries.

Sex

Very minor flirtation and a few innocent kisses. In one scene, a boy kisses a girl on the cheek. In another, a series of princes lines up to kiss a sleeping princess on the mouth to awaken her.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief references to drunkenness when a man, visibly drunk, is kicked out of a tavern. In another scene, a man is helped to get sober with food and water.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wide-Awake Princess is an alternative to typical princess fare: It promotes autonomy, resourcefulness, and good personhood over being pretty or beautiful. The main character exhibits courage and adventurousness, even saving a prince or two rather than waiting passively to be rescued. Though it still concerns beautiful princesses and has some gender stereotypes, it pushes readers to examine assumptions about those types along the way. 

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What's the story?

Princess Annie wasn't blessed with the magical gifts of her sister, Gwen, or princes and princesses in other kingdoms, so she looks quite ordinary and isn't affected by magic. This proves to be both a blessing and a curse when Gwennie turns 16 and pricks her finger on a cursed spinning wheel, sending the entire castle except Annie into a deep sleep. With the whole kingdom at risk, Annie is on her own to figure out how to break the curse, find a prince to take Gwennie's hand in marriage, and save everyone.

Is it any good?

THE WIDE-AWAKE PRINCESS offers an admirable alternative to typical princess fare. The protagonist is a kind, intelligent young woman who wasn't blessed with good looks but rather had to develop a personality and skill set all her own to gain favor. Though she keeps being reminded that she's lacking in the beauty department, she has no trouble finding the admiration and love of another person who values her for herself -- and she has a lot of fun typically reserved for princes along the way.

All this is told through the clever interweaving and subversion of old fairy tales such as Hansel and GretelSleeping BeautyRapunzel, and others, making this a uniquely progressive story that shows that action, romance, and adventure belong to all girls, not only the pretty ones, and that self-esteem comes from more than how the world reacts to your face. Bonus points for urging readers to question what it means to be capable and heroic, no matter your gender.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gender stereotypes. How does The Wide-Awake Princess balance stereotypes about princesses and girls being pretty with a heroine who can save herself? 

  • How does The Wide-Awake Princess compare with other princess stories you've read in terms of the typical happy ending? Which do you prefer?

  • How does Liam feel to be rescued by Princess Annie? It's one thing for girls to be capable but quite another for them to be more capable than a boy. How does Annie handle Liam's hurt feelings? How does Liam react?

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