Part-Time Princesses is a new graphic novel from Monica Gallagher and Oni Press that has been releasing digitally (an issue a week) on Comixology for the past few weeks until the physical book arrives later this month on March 25.
The story follows Tiffany, Amber, Courtney, and Michelle: four high school seniors who work part-time as costumed princesses at Enchanted Park, their town’s local run-down amusement park. It’s very reminiscent of Storybook Land, which was a similar park near where I grew up in New Jersey (and still very much operational).
Each girl – as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Ariel – has a kingdom of her own in the park. And to say these roles have gone to their heads is a bit of an understatement. These girls aren’t just playing characters; in their high school realm, they’re legitimate princesses. Well, in their own minds, at least.
These are Mean Girls with a part-time job. They verbally abuse the “nerds” and “losers” they see around them, including their coworkers at the park. They see themselves as superior to just about everyone. And they give new meaning to the word entitled.
They’re about as stereotypically “popular” as can be, and their dreams are as varied as their personalities (i.e., not very much). One wants to be an actress, one dreams of being a model, the third is a cheerleader, and the fourth … is the smart one.
During their senior year, however, all of their dreams come tumbling down as each of their post-graduation plans falls through. Simultaneously, and by a twist of fate, their already suffering amusement park is suddenly overrun by a crime wave. A curiously organized band of criminals has invaded the park, and it seems intent on driving the park out of business.
With few other options, the girls band together to organize and try to save the park. They capitalize on their existing skills, learn some new ones, and engage in a good ol’ fashioned ’80s training montage as they try to reclaim some semblance of control over their lives.
I need to be honest here. These characters are not very likable. They don’t have a lot of engaging qualities that make you want to root for them and cheer them on. I I found that I didn’t have much sympathy for them or their “difficulties.”
However, this is exactly what makes them realistic. They’re flawed. They struggle. And people they encounter react to them accordingly. Despite the ’80s training montage, their attempt to save the park isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Their personalities keep getting in the way, but they don’t seem to recognize that.
Do they “learn something about themselves” along the way? Sure. Is it a life-changing revelation? Are they transformed by the end? Not quite. But let’s keep in mind that these are high school students. Anything more than what does happen to them wouldn’t be believable.
It would be unfair to say that they’re the same at the end of the story. All four girls do travel an arc, and they each develop in unique ways. What’s important, I think, is that they develop in believable, realistic ways. They’re not lost causes. There’s certainly hope for them to develop even further as they leave high school behind.
As we all do.
Like its protagonists, I’d say this book is appropriate for high schoolers (and some middle schoolers) and up. There’s some language, frank (and casual) conversations about sex, and an unexpected romance that all might be too much for younger readers.