Featured Review: Of Princes and Promises (Sandhya Menon)
About This Book:
Caterina LaValle is determined to show she’s still the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy. Sure, her crown may be slightly askew after her ex-boyfriend, Alaric, cheated on her, but she’s a LaValle. She’ll find a way to march right back in there, her hands clutching the strings to the whole puppet show. This time, she’s going to be untouchable.
Rahul Chopra knows that moment he shared with Caterina LaValle at the winter formal meant something. Surely she feels it, too. He’s a little uncertain how someone like him (socially inept to a point way past “adorkable”) could fit into her world, but he’s loved Caterina for years. He knows they’ll find a way.
When Caterina finds out Alaric is taking a supermodel to the upcoming gala, she knows she cannot arrive without the perfect date. But the thought of taking another superficial St. R’s boy exhausts her. The solution? Sweet-but-clueless Rahul Chopra and a mysterious pot of hair gel with the power to alter the wearer into whatever his heart desires.
When Rahul tries it, he transforms instantly into RC—debonair, handsome, and charming. But transformation comes with a price: As Rahul enjoys his new social standing, the line between his two personas begins to blur. Will he give up everything, including Caterina, to remain RC? Or will this unlikely pair find their way back to each other?
*Review Contributed by Olivia Farr, Staff Reviewer*
OF PRINCES AND PROMISES is an interesting twist on The Frog Prince that adds a bit of magic into a YA contemporary story. Caterina is a wealthy and popular heiress, and she enjoys her social stature as an almost-princess. Her heart was broken by Alaric, who cheated on her and broke her heart. When he tells her that he's moved on with a model that he'll be taking to the next big social event, she tells him that she's found someone too. She decides to do a makeover on Rahul and bring him as her date.
Rahul has social anxiety and a major crush on Caterina. When Alaric broke her heart, Rahul danced with her at the school dance and fell in love with the heartbroken girl who seemed so real. Although she has ignored him practically since, he holds out hope that things will change. When she asks him to participate in her etiquette classes and get a makeover to attend an event with her, he is willing to do whatever she needs. The makeover includes a magical hair gel that transforms him from Rahul to RC, a handsome, charismatic, and confident guy who belongs on Caterina's arm at these high society events.
As they attend these events and spend time together outside of them, Caterina realizes she is falling in love with Rahul - not RC. However, Rahul loves the ease and popularity of RC, so it will be difficult to let this new persona go.
What I loved: This was an overall fun twist on The Frog Prince, and I ultimately appreciated that Caterina was able to embrace Rahul for who he is and not only who he could be with some magic. The magical element was really interesting as well, as it could be magic - or it could have been a placebo effect with some confidence and assurance, which made it a light touch.
Another thing I appreciated was that Rahul has social anxiety that is described throughout, but also, importantly, the book shows the helpfulness of past therapy in dealing with it. It is also accepted by his friends, who just want the best for him while he is true to himself, and by Caterina.
The themes of self-confidence, acceptance, and the importance of being embraced for who you are are ones that will resonate with the intended audience. This book would suit an older middle grade audience as well as YA readers, as the themes and content would be age appropriate.
What left me wanting more: As a small point, I would have liked to take a deeper dive into the characters, particularly as they get to know each other and fall in love. Although we get the feeling that they start to know each other better, there are not a lot of heart-to-heart conversations that I would have enjoyed. There was also not much resolution of plots around Rahul and his family or the RC secret. I really loved Rahul and wanted so much more for his personal story. The side story with Mia also took me for a loop, and I would have preferred to focus on the main couple more.
Final verdict: A fun fairytale reimagining, OF PRINCES AND PROMISES is a magical YA contemporary with messages about embracing yourself and self-acceptance.
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