Meg Cabot for me is the queen of romance novels. She can write hilarious scenes, make us cry, and take us to different worlds. A versatile, prolific author that tours regularly and speaks to her readers, Meg knows what readers want and how to provide it. She believes in happy endings, and in true love.
I’ve put together a minor list of Meg recommendations for Valentine’s Day. On such holidays, sometimes a good book can help. If love has taken its sweet time with you, definitely listen to these or read in the tub. Sometimes love also takes you for a ride.
Do note that I will discuss spoilers, so you have been warned. They will be marked.
What Book To Read When You’ve Never Had A Boyfriend: Teen Idol
Teen Idol is my favorite YA Meg novel. It’s the ultimate comfort fiction and escapist fantasy. High school junior Jen Greenley has to act as the social mayonnaise in her school to keep everyone happy. She writes an anonymous advice column, encourages her friends to keep their boyfriends, and struggles to do jazz hands in choir. With all of this, Jen’s not thrilled to escort a former child star, Luke Striker, around her school incognito. Luke has become a teen heartthrob, and he thinks a pair of glasses will hide his identity. He decides to visit the town high school to play the part of an ordinary American student.
Unlike everyone else in her town, however, Jen doesn’t like Luke that way. She admits that he’s handsome, thoughtful, and talented. She would rather just survive choir, write her Ask Annie column, and keep her head down. Luke also challenges her to change the school, thinking she is better than mayonnaise. These changes cause disruption, but they may also awaken Jen’s heart.
We’ve all wanted this fantasy to come to life. I’d have killed if Daniel Radcliffe had done this at my school. Jen’s not thrilled, but that’s because she doesn’t crush on celebrities. Luke also turns out to be a nice guy, if sheltered and entitled. He believes in empathy, and doing what you can to make the world better.
As for love, Jen takes a while to realize she has it. Scott, Jen’s best friend and editor of the high school newspaper, fills her life between classes and on the paper. He’s also dating a high school senior but makes time for Jen to discuss science fiction novels. Scott also cooks a mean butternut squash soup. Small wonder that Jen realizes that she likes him.
What Book to Read when your relationship is foundering: Queen of Babble Trilogy
Lizzie Nichols has never been lucky in love. She can find and repair vintage clothes, but she can’t find a decent guy. Others claim she also can’t keep a secret, but Lizzie begs to differ. After a college boyfriend has rescued her from a fire, Lizzie decides to visit him and his family in Europe instead of attending a French wedding with her friends Shari and Chaz. Andy turns out to be a liar and a gambling addict, so Lizzie leaves as fast as she can and boards a train to France. On the way she meets another wedding guest, a gentlemanly Luke who isn’t the Luke from the previous book. Luke seems to match her profile of a dream guy, due to having dreams of being a doctor.
This series shows the problem of two very different people carrying on a summer fling into the fall. After Lizzie and Luke become a couple, they attempt to live together in New York to follow their dreams. This doesn’t pan out because they both want different things: Lizzie plans for a future, while Luke lives in the moment. It’s a sobering reality to find that someone who likes you, even loves you, isn’t right for you. While Meg Cabot in the last book tarnishes Luke’s character by revealing what he was doing, Lizzie isn’t a saint either. Their actions show red flags in their relationship that comes from not communicating, and from not realizing what they want.
What Book to Read When Your Heart Has Just Broken: Princess Mia
Generally it’s best to read a series in chronological order, but in The Princess Diaries one with enough context can skip to book nine. The penultimate book in the series, not counting spinoffs, Princess Mia is the best written. It shows the realities of ending a serious relationship and the effect on one’s mental health.
Princess Mia Thermopolis has just ended her relationship with her high school boyfriend Michael. She actually had a good reason, in my opinion, but the aftermath is painful. Her best friend Lilly, Michael’s sister, has lost her boyfriend JP and blames Mia for it. Mia regrets the breakup after he leaves for Japan, but Michael refuses to get back together. With no Lilly for emotional support, a hate site targeting Mia, and Michael gone, Mia takes to bed. She doesn’t get out of bed for three days. Her dad has to order her bodyguard to drag her to therapy.
Relationships end. No matter the reason, that ending still hurts. They can also have snowballing consequences. This book doesn’t sugarcoat Mia’s depression, or her unhealthy coping methods like binge eating and watching reality TV. Getting back into her normal routine is hard for her, especially with Lilly being spiteful and longtime rival Lana Weinberger being nice. Her cat even refuses to cuddle with her, due to being a cat that hates hugs.
This book tells you that life can go on after it feels like the world has ended. It’s not easy, but recovering from an ending relationship is possible.
What book to Read if you have a perfectly healthy relationship: The HEather Wells Mysteries
Some days the world just tears you down, and you need others to pull you up. That is Heather’s situation: a former child pop star who loses her boyfriend, her recording contract and her money in a short amount of time, Heather decides to work at New York College to get her degree and her life back together. She does bookkeeping for her ex-boyfriend’s brother, Cooper, who is a private investigator. They are attracted to each other, but Cooper worries about being Heather’s rebound guy and taking advantage of her while she’s in financial dire straits and emotionally compromised. Also, they work together to solve mysteries at her workplace, where people die frequently at the Death Dorm.
Unlike the other examples here, Heather and Cooper have the healthiest relationship. As consenting adults, they talk about the issues between hooking up or not hooking up as a couple. When Cooper does lie, it’s part of his profession, rather than for serious reasons, and Heather still calls him out for it. They communicate openly about their desires and fears for the future, namely Cooper’s fear that someone at Death Dorm will eventually kill Heather. For that reason they make a better couple than Luke and Lizzie, or Mia and Michael initially.
What book to read if you have no Interest in love and just want a good story: From the Notebooks of a middle school princess
Meg Cabot does amazing children’s books. Her Allie Finkle books have entertained me with slice of life stories, and Notebooks accurately covers the perils of middle school.
Notebooks is a little different for various reasons: it serves as a sequel series to The Princess Diaries and offers a new biracial character. Olivia Grace is Mia’s half-sister with no idea of her lineage. She just wants to be more than “average” as her uncle, aunt and cousins believe she is, and to learn how to draw with more perspective. Then the school bully knocks her to the ground, and only Mia’s timely arrival saves Olivia from a serious beat-down. Mia has just discovered she has a sister and wants to make up for lost time. Olivia is eager, and more so to meet their dad.
The book has a sobering view on race, emotional and physical abuse, and identity. Annabelle Jenkins hates Olivia for existing, but doesn’t consider the ramifications of threatening a princess. Olivia at first doesn’t know what she wants because she hasn’t known anything else apart from a Harry Potter-like existence. She comes to realize, however, that her aunt and uncle exist on the skeevy side. Her cousins are no different. One of her best friends, Nishi, believes that Olivia deserves better. So do Mia, her dad, and Grandmere.
I’m eager to read the next books in the series, to read about Olivia and Mia’s bonding moments. I can’t wait to see Nishi in Genovia, and Grandmere softening up about her youngest granddaughter.
I wish you all a happy Valentine’s day. Do tell me if any other meg cabot books are helping you through a rough time, or what you enjoy