The Secret Life of Prince Charming
The Secret Life of Prince Charming
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Annotation: Seventeen-year-old Quinn has heard all her life about how untrustworthy men are, so when she discovers that her charismatic but selfish father, with whom she has recently begun to have a tentative relationship, has stolen from the many women in his life, she decides she must avenge this wrong.
Catalog Number: #4798473
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2009
Pages: 352
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-416-95941-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-416-95941-0
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
After Quinn's mother makes a list of attributes that she thinks Quinn and her younger sister should seek out in guys, Quinn comments, "We're not stupid." Her love-worn mother replies: "You can be smart and not know. And you can know and not care." Then Quinn's boyfriend dumps her, and she is surprised by how hurt she is, despite her ambivalence about him. As Quinn tries to sort out her tumultuous feelings, she embarks on a road trip with karmic intentions: by returning objects that her father stole from his former wives and girlfriends, she hopes that her own luck will change. Along the way, Quinn finds a new romance, lots of fabulous kisses, and a 10-foot Big Boy mascot statue, which all add to the story's fun. Interwoven with Quinn's story are vignettes with women who share their experiences with her and deliver lessons about men: "If a guy seems to need saving, call the Coast Guard." Sporadic strong language might offend some younger readers; otherwise, this is a sure hit with both Caletti's and Sarah Dessen's legions of fans.
Horn Book
The women in Quinn's family constantly warn her about men. But Quinn loves Barry, her recently returned father, and desperately wants his love. Caletti believably conveys Quinn's painful realizations about Barry. Despite its focus on bad men, the story is warmly optimistic and humorous, and its upbeat ending--with Quinn, her mom, and her grandmother all finding nice guys--is a feel-good, fitting conclusion.
Kirkus Reviews
Caletti traverses familiar narrative terrain—emotionally wounded women search for Mr. Right amongst an overabundance of Mr. Wrongs—and adds a road trip as the vehicle for finding truth. Seventeen-year-old Quinn Hunt is appalled when she discovers that her father, a womanizer, has kept as trophies objects of great emotional importance that belonged to each of his numerous lovers. Along with a cast of unlikely mates, including a stepsister she's never met, Quinn sets off to return the stolen items. Slow going at first, the familiar plot perks up during the trip. The first-person narrative is humorous and chatty as Quinn recounts her frustration with her father and her hopes that this "karmic mission" will heal their strained relationship. Punctuating this, and set apart in a different typeface, are the accounts of the other female characters as they share their romantic mistakes. The author excels at getting to the heart of her protagonists' mixed-up emotions, and her fans will not be disappointed. (Fiction. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up Quinn Hunt, 17, has been warned about the dangers of love all her life. Her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother are veterans of numerous bad relationships with men and have even posted a list of warning signs on the refrigerator. Quinn has recently reconnected with her estranged father, who is charming and exciting to be around, but her dealings with him are increasingly difficult because of his selfishness and narcissism. In a rapid succession of events, she discovers that her supposedly "safe" boyfriend has in fact been cheating on her, and she then finds that her father has a collection of treasured objects that he has stolen from his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. Quinn and her younger sister, Sprout, team up with their older half-sister Frances Lee to go on a road trip to return all the mementos to these women. During the process, Quinn hears previously unknown details of her father's past and discovers real love with a musician who appears to be a bad boy but is really sweet and sensitive. This is a thoughtful, funny, and empowering spin on the classic road novel. There are many serious reflections on love, good and bad, voiced by the various women, but there are also a number of comic episodes to balance the seriousness. Because of its strong language and the mature themes, this is best suited to older teens, who will appreciate what it has to say about love, relationships, and getting what you need. Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

In a trenchant romance, NBA finalist Caletti (The Fortunes of Indigo Skye) detonates a few stereotypes about love even as her 17-year-old narrator falls head over heels for Mr. Right. Quinn, raised by a mother whose favorite lecture is “All Men Are Assholes,” nevertheless feels loyal to her father, the eponymous Prince Charming whose self-centeredness harms the women he woos. She protects herself, she thinks, by making “good choices,” which, she belatedly realizes, “also meant other people’s choices.” But when she discovers that her father has stolen objects prized by each of his lovers and wives, she determines to return them to their rightful owners; it’s metaphorical as well as physical restitution. Joining up with a barely known half-sister, Quinn and her younger sister embark on a road trip; as the three meet the women injured by their father, Quinn also meets a wonderful guy, the antithesis of the supposedly safe boy she’d dated before; and everyone learns lessons in love. Interspersed throughout are monologues from the female adult characters (including Quinn’s grandmother and aunt, who live with her), which add both perspective and a large dose of wit. Caletti’s gifts for voice and for conjuring multidimensional personalities are at their sharpest. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
The intricacies of life and love are poignantly detailed in CalettiÆs latest contemporary fiction. Seventeen-year-old Quinn is being raised by her single mother with assistance from a feisty grandmother and outspoken aunt. None of these women has any luck with men, and Quinn joins them because her supposedly safe boyfriend commits the ultimate betrayal. She nurses her mixed feelings about the break-up and wonders about her mysterious father, who recently re-entered her life. When she discovers a room full of items belonging to her fatherÆs exes, she is determined to reunite them with their rightful owners. Caletti weaves in bits of wisdom from the women in QuinnÆs family as well as from each of the women they visit throughout the narrative. She explores the concept of true love and also examines the many types of love within a family. She brings into play different types of family connections, including half-sister Frances Lee whom Quinn and her younger sister Sprout enlist for the mission. These relationships are carefully explored as the three girls learn about themselves, each other, and the father they barely know through the eyes of the women he loved. Caletti is a master of language and an astute observer of the human condition. Her characters are believable, and the girlÆs quest has a realistic outcome that never turns overly sentimental. The ending is hopeful but not tied up too neatly and will leave readers longing for more.ùShari Fesko.
Word Count: 87,905
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 13.0 / quiz: 130062 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: 760L

Chapter One

When it came to love, my mother's big advice was that there were WARNING SIGNS. About the "bad" guys, that is. The ones who would hurt you or take advantage or crumple you up and toss, same as that poem I would once try to write for Daniel Jarvis. The wrong men -- the psychopaths, cheaters, liars, controllers, stalkers, ones too lazy or incompetent to hold a job, to hold their temper, to hold you properly, to hold anything but a joint or a beer bottle -- well, there were RED FLAGS, and you had to watch for them. If you were handling love correctly, it should go the way of those Driver's Ed videos, where things were jumping out at you right and left and you had to be on alert -- a swerving truck, a child's ball rolling into the street. The important thing was, love was dangerous. Love was that dark alley you were walking down where your purse might be snatched.

Love was also an easy word, used carelessly. Felons and creeps could offer it coated in sugar, and users could dangle it so enticingly that you wouldn't notice it had things attached -- heavy things, things like pity and need, that were as weighty as anchors and iron beams and just as impossible to get out from underneath.

"They ought to make people apply for a permit before they can say they love you," Mom said once. I remember this -- she was in our big kitchen, holding a mug of coffee in both hands, warming her fingers against an image of Abe Lincoln embossed on ceramic, the oldest mug in the house, from when my father once went to Springfield, Illinois, home of our sixteenth president. Mom was talking to me and Gram and Aunt Annie, who both lived with us, and the sound of cartoons was coming from the living room, where my little sister Sprout was sitting crosslegged on the floor in her pajamas.

"Yeah. Make a man pay fifty bucks and take one of those mental tests," Gram said. She was fishing around in the kitchen drawer as butter melted in a pan for scrambled eggs. "Quinn, help an old lady find the damn whisk," she said to me.

"Cynics," Aunt Annie said, but she did so with a sigh. "You're both cynics." She tightened the sash of her robe around her. She'd just started seeing Quentin Ferrill at the time. We knew him only as the Double Tall Chai Latte No Foam guy, who gave long looks at Aunt Annie when he asked how her day was going across the counter at Java Jive, where Aunt Annie was a barista. Looks that shared secrets, she had told us. "Looks that are trying to get you into bed, is more like it," Gram had replied.

The favorite lecture of some mothers was Don't Talk to Strangers or, maybe, Look Both Ways. My mother's favorite was All Men Are Assholes.

I tended to side with Aunt Annie that they were cynics. I was only seventeen -- I wasn't ready to be jaded yet. I was just at the start of the relationship road, where lip-gloss-love ends and you're at that Y where if you go one way, you'll have flat, easy pathways and everlasting happiness, and if you go the other, the rocky and steep slopes of heartbreak -- only you have no idea which way is which. I liked to think I was already heading in the right direction, determined to prove my mother wrong by making Good Choices. I was sort of the queen of good choices, ruled by niceness and doing the right thing. Good choices meant asking that weird, solitary Patty Hutchins to your birthday party even when you didn't want to. Good choices meant getting your homework in on time and being on the volleyball team and sharing a locker with someone who played the clarinet instead of someone who drank their parents' Scotch. It meant liking math because it makes sense and liking your family even if they don't make sense and driving carefully and knowing you'd go to college. It meant taking careful steps and being doomed to be someone no one really remembered at the high school reunion.

I think "good choices" also meant other people's choices to me, then. I could feel hazy and undefined, even to myself. Was I going to be amazing, the best, the most incredible -- win a Nobel Prize in mathematics, achieve great heights, as Dad would constantly tell me? Or was I going to be someone who would only continue to stumble and flounder and search, which is what I really felt would happen, since Dad's words sounded as shiny and hollow as Christmas ornaments to me? Maybe I would be simply ordinary. What would happen if that were the case? Just ordinary? And how did you get to a place where you knew where you were headed and what you wanted? I hate to admit this, I do, but the fact was, if most of my friends wanted hamburgers, I wanted hamburgers, and if the whole class kept their hands down during a vote, I would not be the single raised hand. No way. Too risky. When you went along, you could be sure of a positive outcome. A plus B equals C. When you didn't go along, you got A plus X equals a whole host of possibilities, including, maybe, pissing off people and ending up alone. I badly wished I could know my own truths and speak them, but they seemed out of reach, and it seemed better to be sure of yourself in secret.

And in love? Good choices so far meant my boyfriend, Daniel Jarvis, whom I'd been dating for over a year. Dating meaning he'd come over to my house and we'd watch a video and he'd hold my hand until it got too sweaty. Teachers loved Daniel, and he ran track and was polite to my mother and went to church every Sunday morning with his family. Daniel was nice. Like me. He made good choices too. He bought that Toyota instead of the classic little MG Midget with the broken convertible top that he'd run his hands over lovingly. Toyota love was only responsible love -- remembering to put the gas cap on, refilling the wiper fluid. Convertible love was fingertips drawn slow over the curve of warm metal.

My inner evil twin, the one who would say the things I didn't want to hear but that were the truth, would also say that oatmeal is nice. Second-grade teachers are nice. That Christmas present from Aunt So and So was nice, the little pearl stud earrings. My inner evil twin also knows that the kind of nice that appears in the phrase "But he's nice," that emphasis, well, it's suspiciously defensive. Sort of like when you buy a shirt you don't really like because it was half off and then say, "But it was a good buy." Justification for giving in to things we don't feel one hundred percent for. Maybe I just wanted to believe in love, even if I didn't all the way believe in me and Daniel Jarvis. Maybe what Daniel Jarvis and I had was half-off love.

With Daniel, there weren't any red flags, but there weren't any blue ones or green ones, either; no beautiful silk flags with gold threads and patterns so breathtaking they could make you dizzy when they blew in the wind. It was enough, maybe, not to have bad things, even if you didn't have great things. For example, my best friend, Liv, went out with this guy, Travis Becker, whom she was totally in love with until she found out he was seeing two other girls at the same time and had recently been arrested for breaking and entering. God. Then again, Liv is beautiful and I am not. Good choices are a little harder, maybe, when you have lots of options.

As for Mom, I'm guessing she began developing her favorite lecture somewhere around the time her own father (Gram's wayward husband, the elusive Rocky Siler) left when she was two, and after her stepfather (Otto Pearlman, Aunt Annie's dad) did the same thing ten years later. She added to the running theme when she and my dad divorced after his affair with Abigail Renfrew, and perfected it sometime after her three-year relationship with Dean. Or, as we call him now, OCD Dean. He and his two horrible children moved in with us for a while after Dad left, before Gram and Aunt Annie moved in. Let me tell you, people of different values don't belong under the same roof. We named Dean's kids Mike and Veruca, after those characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike Teavee and Veruca Salt ("Da-dee! I want an Oompa Loompa now!"). It got so bad with them there that it felt like some kind of home-invasion robbery where the robbers decide to live with you afterward. Mom, Sprout, and me would go somewhere and leave them behind, and when we had to come back, Mom would sometimes drive right past our house. We can't go in there, she'd say, as if the building itself were dangerous, filled with toxic fumes, threatened by a collapsing structure. As if the problem was with the house and not the people in it.

My mother, Mary Louise Hoffman, is a graphic designer who used to paint and had shown her work at several galleries. She used to dance, too, which is how she met my father -- they actually performed in a show together. It's hard to imagine her as this painter/dancer wearing swirling skirts and swoopy earrings; there's a picture of her from the time just before she met Dad -- someone had snapped her in the middle of a cartwheel, only one hand on a deep green grassy lawn somewhere, her feet in the air. It seems odd; it seems like a different her, because her feet were so firmly on the ground after that. She was sort of the super-functioning head woman in our clan. Mom handled things -- she could sign a permission slip at the same time she was steaming wrinkles from a blouse and cooking Stroganoff. But if you got her started on the man thing, she'd get a little crazy-extremist, super focused and wild-eyed both, like those anti- or pro-religious people, only without the religion part.

Most particularly, you didn't want to get her started on my dad. "Men" meant him, especially, multiplied by a gajillion. She tended to forget that he was my father, that he was her ex, not mine. And that I wanted to love him, needed for him to love me back because he hadn't been in my life always. Her constant reminders about why I shouldn't didn't help anything. Actually, they hurt her cause. Because every time I heard anything about him, or about "men," I put up a nice new stone in my mental defense wall of him. It's sort of like how you protect the little kid from the bully. You want to say, Hey, every time you do that, I love Dad more, but you don't say that. When your parents are divorced, there's a lot you don't say. And another thing you think but don't dare speak: When you talk bad about each other, you're wasting your breath. I stopped listening years ago. You stop listening when you figure out that the words aren't actually directed at you, anyway. That you're basically a wire between two telephones.

Anyway. I guess what I mean to say, what I should say right off, is that I knew good choices did not include stealing things from my own father's house. I knew that, and I did it anyway. I had to. Frances Lee, the half sister I never knew but know now, would say this about what we did: sometimes good choices are really only bad ones, wrapped up in so much fear you can't even see straight.

Copyright © 2009 by Deb Caletti



Excerpted from The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Quinn teams up with the half-sister she’s never met to right their father’s wrongs in this thoughtful, funny, and layered novel by National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor medal winner Deb Caletti.

Maybe it was wrong, or maybe impossible, but I wanted the truth to be one thing. One solid thing.

Quinn is surrounded by women who have had their hearts broken. Between her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother, Quinn hears nothing but cautionary tales. And when she is abruptly and unceremoniously dumped, Quinn starts to think maybe there really are no good men.

It doesn’t help that she’s gingerly handling a renewed relationship with her formerly absent father. He’s a little bit of a lot of things: charming, selfish, eccentric, lazy… But he’s her dad, and Quinn’s just happy to have him around again. Until she realizes how horribly he’s treated the many women in his life, how he’s stolen more than just their hearts. Determined to, for once, take action in her life, Quinn joins forces with the half-sister she’s never met and the little sister she’ll do anything to protect. Together, they set out to right her father’s wrongs…and in doing so, begin to uncover what they’re really looking for: the truth.

Once again, Deb Caletti has created a cast of lovably flawed characters who bond over the shared experiences of fear, love, pain, and joy—in other words, real life.


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