Review: Just the Way You Are

One of the benefits of blogging about princess books is that I occasionally get recommendations from my readers about books that I probably would never have known about otherwise. This month, that's been a little stressful for me since three of my favorite authors are releasing new books. When I received a recommendation on my "Disabled Princesses" post, I tried to read it as quickly as I could before my reading list explodes. Just the Way You Are by Allison M. Boot was written with the intention of creating positive visibility for disabled princess fans. While it succeeds in that respect, the story itself leaves much to be desired. Allison is a fantastic advocate for people with disabilities, and I think she is a very admirable person for all of the effort that she has put into this. She isn't a bad writer either, but the story structure in Just the Way You Are borrows heavily from common tropes, making it difficult to appreciate as an original fairy tale or adaptation.

Before I get started with my review, I have to say that the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous. It portrays a romantic couple dancing in the moonlight with a fairy tale castle in the background as the elegantly dressed woman leans back on a silver wheelchair. I was hoping that the story would be just as magical and romantic as the imagery on the cover, but as the idiom goes, you should never judge a book by its cover. I knew I was in for a rough ride when the first page made direct comparisons of the book's protagonist to specific Disney Princesses instead of building its own mythology. Misty Miles is a princess living in a kingdom called Starryton, which exists in an anachronistic universe that contains monarchies, movie theaters, phonographs, and trolls. The more I read of this book, the more displaced the world felt in terms of time and space. There are many other things in the story that don't make sense, such as the specifics of how Misty is able to escape her castle tower in a wheelchair. I doubt she managed to build an accessible ramp all the way from her tower window to the ground.

The first half of the book reads like a butchered version of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Misty runs away from her overprotective parents to make a deal with Trovella, an evil troll, to have a pair of functional legs so she can ditch her wheelchair and make Prince Derrick, a man she has never seen in person, fall in love with her. Some of the dialogue in this section is lifted straight out of the Disney classic. She meets Prince Derrick in a similar manner to Ariel except that instead of falling off a rock into his arms, she falls into a pond, and he pulls her out. Derrick is by far the worst thing about this book. He uses the old cliché "You're not like other girls, are you?" not even a minute after meeting her and invites her to live with him in the castle despite knowing absolutely nothing about her. He only refers to her as "sweetie" or "beautiful" from the moment they meet, which made me want to gag every time. I know she told him her name at some point, but he never actually uses it. His love is not earned by any capacity, and he constantly showers her with compliments for seemingly no reason.

The story improves dramatically in the second half after Misty returns to her wheelchair and starts an honest relationship with Derrick, even though I still couldn't stand him because he was flatter than a piece of cardboard. At one point, he places her in charge of attending to his kingdom's commoners, and she sends all of them away after meeting a little girl who is also in a wheelchair instead of listening to everyone's problems, even though they all traveled there just to report them. This doesn't seem like the best decision for someone in a position of power, but it does support the author's intentions for the needs of those with disabilities to come first. Kara, the girl in the wheelchair, was hoping to wish her disability away like Misty did, but she lost her chance because Misty defeated Trovella earlier in the book using the abilities that she only had because of the wish that Trovella granted her. Misty and Derrick agree to help Kara find a loving family who accepts her the way she is. I think the book would have been much stronger if it was about Misty taking Kara in from the very beginning instead of the weird Little Mermaid mash-up. There aren't nearly as many stories about princesses adopting disabled children as there are about princesses using magic to find love.

I definitely appreciated what this book was trying to do. More positive representation of disabilities in the media is absolutely a good thing. However, the setting was incredibly confusing, and the prince felt like a robot that was built entirely for the purpose of making Misty feel good about herself. I think the book would have been much better if it cut out the muddled Trovella sequence entirely and started out with Misty living in the castle with Derrick and wanting to help Kara find a family. Portraying Misty as a married handicap princess from the beginning would have done a better job of showing disabled girls that there's nothing wrong with them than by having her pretend to be something she isn't. If you are interested in reading a book about a disabled princess with a much more believable world and characters, I highly recommend Pirouette by Kenley Davidson.


Allison Boot said…
Thank you for reviewing my book. I appreciate it. I hope you will consider reading my other novel. Although it is not princess specific, there is a princess in it. I have improved as a writer over the years and believed you will find the mythology and imagery to be much improved. Please consider giving The Magic Within a try. It's on sell on Amazon right now for less than $6!

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