Review posted February 14, 2013.
Disney Hyperion Books, New York, 2010. 239 pages.
I got a copy of Princess for Hire at ALA Annual Conference 2010 and had it signed by the author -- and then I didn't get it read because it didn't have a due date. Honestly, for some reason I thought it was a story about a contemporary teen who happens to be a princess look-alike, or something like that. Now, I thought I'd get to meet Lindsey Leavitt at ALA Annual this year, so I started reading Princess for Hire. The stars on the cover should have tipped me off: That wasn't the plot at all. No, it involves magic! I read this book on the flight to Long Beach and was completely enchanted.
13-year-old Desi Bascomb lives in Sproutville, home of the Idaho Days Potato Festival. She has a summer job that involves wearing a groundhog costume in front of the Pets Charming pets store in the mall. She is humiliated in front of her crush by the girl who was once her best friend.
But then life opens up for Desi. She learns she has "magic potential." She gets to work, on a trial basis, for an agency that provides substitutes for princesses who need a break from being royal. The agency uses magic to make the substitute look exactly like the original, as well as get the subs back only an instant after they left.
Desi gets a great variety of jobs in this book. Her first trial job is a B-movie actress princess in an insect costume who doesn't like meeting her fans. Then she goes to replace an overweight daughter of a sheikh. She causes some trouble at a dinner -- completely out of character for a princess. But the agency gives her another chance with an Amazon princess due in a coming-of-age ceremony and finally a more traditional princess who lives with her Nana in the Alps -- and Desi gets to meet the heartthrob prince of the tabloids and make a difference in the princess's life.
But Desi's not supposed to make a difference in anyone's life. And the Princess Progress Reports aren't working. Will she lose her job, her chance to live her dreams, away from Sproutville?
This book has plenty of variety, lots of humor, some good insights about life, and makes for very fun reading. This was perfect reading for a flight, and kept me wide awake and smiling. I wish I had read it sooner, but am happy that now I won't have to wait to read more about Desi.