I feel like this is one of those books that I shouldn’t like (see the negative reviews for reasons why), but yet it was recommended to me so much that I had to try it. If you’ve read any of the online reviews, you will know what I mean about the points of negativity, but I felt that SOME of the negativity is a little blown out of proportion. Is this something I would recommend to a young teen? Absolutely not. But for a mature older teen? With discretion, yes.
Paper Princess revolves around 17-year-old Ella Harper. We enter her world while she is living on her own, having lost her mother the year prior, and determined to keep up the charade that her mother is still alive until she can finish high school and turn 18. She affords this by being a stripper and living in a not so great apartment. She’s not into drugs, she’s not into sex, she just strips for cash. And apparently she is talented at it as we learn that dancing is in her blood (dancing in general, not just strip club dancing).
Enter Callum Royal. Callum is her father’s best friend and former business partner. Her father Steve O’Halloran, whom she has never known, passed away and Callum was tapped to be her guardian in his will. Callum has gone through a lot of effort to ascertain her identity, confirm her lineage, and locate her. To put it plainly, Ella is not trusting of strangers, and tries to escape. But Callum only finds her again, and sweeps her away, making a deal with her that she can’t say no to. He offers her a future, the chance to study at a private school and be cared for, and money (including substantial bonuses for completing high school and college). It’s all she wants… a chance to move forward. She decides to risk it, knowing that if she has to run away as she’s done so many times before, at least she will have a little more financial security to take with her.
But living with Callum and his sons may be more than she originally bargained for. She is soon deep into their world, fighting off bullies at their elite prep school, and trying to find her way to balance and some semblance of fitting in to get through her junior and senior year. Reed and all of the boys despise her, and make it known to everyone that she is not to be socialized with. All the while, she finds herself in a tension-filled attraction with Reed Royal, the second oldest son, and the leader of the Royal boys. Is he just putting up a facade, and can she figure out why all of the Royal boys have a hard time trusting her and their father?
So why did I like this book so much?
I’m not really into some of the language. It was a bit crass at first. A bit vulgar. But it was also a bit unexpected. I wondered why people recommended it to me. Did they know me at all? There were moments that, as others have cited, show that consent in certain displays (crotch grabbing for example), are not high on the minds of teenage boys. There are tougher moments, too, which I feel that are important to discuss for a teen with a parent. (I am a not a teen, so I didn’t need a parent talk, but just saying… there is some interesting subject matter.) There were moments when I thought this is nothing I would have ever picked for myself. But at the same time, I couldn’t put it down, and towards the second half of the book, I really started liking many of the characters.
To answer the question though, of why I liked it:
I liked Ella. I liked Easton. I liked Callum. I liked Valerie. I loved Reed. I liked the plot pace — it was quick, and though some of it was predictable (read as: the Ella / Steve story has to play out as she didn’t know her father and he’s dead, but also she needs deal with the legal aftermath of his death and wishes) — many parts were NOT predictable. It was fun to see Ella gain her confidence and see how her decisions shift and propel her forward. She is street savvy and a fighter, and she also makes some colossal mistakes which humanize her as a teen.
And the ending… THE ENDING… really? Because it was 3 in the morning when I finished, because my husband was asleep… I couldn’t yell out WHAT????!!! But in my brain, that’s exactly what I was screaming. So if you do give this book a chance, please be sure to know where to get the next book so you aren’t left hanging (at least, not too long!). This is a book that will not be on my top list of recommendations, unless someone is specifically asking for a slightly-scandalous-romance-“YA”-nearly-“NA” book, but it turned out to be an entertaining read. We’ll see how the rest of the trilogy goes!