Watt, Erin. Paper Princess. 2016. EverAfter Romance.
Ella Harper has had nobody to rely on but herself since her mother’s death. She’s been supporting herself by working in a strip club with a fake ID until she can graduate from High School. She’s smart and gets good grades, so she should qualify for a scholarship to attend college. Called to the Principal’s office unexpectedly she meets Callum Royal who claims to be the best friend of her Father who recently passed away. Ella never knew her father’s identity, so she finds this quite unbelievable. Callum tells her that he is her guardian by law, and wishes to take her to live with him and his five sons. He will support her through High School, and pay her college tuition as long as she maintains her high GPA.
Ella reluctantly agrees, and is whisked into a world of wealth and privilege. She meets Callum’s sons, who all despise her, none more than Reed Royal. They are forced together as Callum insists that the boys help Ella socialize with her schoolmates. As Ella gets to know the Royals better she begins to see firsthand their flaws, addictions, and in some cases destructive behavior. She is befriended by Valerie, a likeable classmate, and their friendship gets her through tough times. Wanting to maintain her independence, she gets a job at the local bakery where she works shifts before and after school. She becomes increasingly attracted to Reed Royal, and their love/hate relationship deepens over the course of the story.
Paper Princess is a fast read. Most readers will probably finish it in a day. It’s also quite popular being on the NYT’s bestseller list as an e-book for 13 weeks and still going. Watt’s writing style isn’t overly descriptive, but the setting and character development is there. The Royals all have distinctly different personalities, and Watt lets the reader get to know them succinctly by the end of the book. The novel reads more like a new adult romance than young adult in the vein of the After series by Anna Todd. However, Reed Royal isn’t quite as much of a mess as Hardin Scott. Ella isn’t as much of a good girl as Tessa either. Ella has more backbone, and doesn’t take Reed’s attitude to heart. She’s more focused on getting to college, but finds herself caught up in the drama of the Royals.
Callum Royal acts as a surrogate father to Ella, but he’s quite naive about his children. He does give her insight into her father which helps drive the plot. However, his fatherly moments are overshadowed by how inappropriately he often acts with his girlfriend, Brooke. When Ella first arrives Brooke takes her shopping, and she seems to be nothing more than a vapid trophy girlfriend of a middle aged rich man. At times, it seems that Callum himself knows this, and he is just using Brooke to blot out how much he misses his late wife.
At the prep school Ella attends with the Royal boys there are mean girls, and she is bullied. The main antagonist is Ella’s classmate and queen of the school, Savannah. She is mostly the one who throws around the term “casual” and it’s clear that she is a fangirl of the Royals. She’s a rather flat character, but might get more depth in upcoming books.
Ella and Reed’s relationship is the focus of the story, and they often have trouble communicating with each other. Reed’s prejudice towards, “casuals”, which is a term he and the prep school students have for people without wealth is apparent. Watt develops his character slowly, and it seems that the reader hasn’t seen behind the curtain quite yet. It will be interesting to see where Watt leads readers in the next book, Broken Prince. Coming out on July 25, Broken Prince looks to be from Reed’s point of view, and this might serve to deliver the details that were missing about Reed in book one.
A compulsively readable YA novel that seems like an adult romance, which may appeal to older teenagers looking for something in the vein of Gossip Girl. –Kirkus
“This generation’s Cruel Intentions.”
-Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
Book Clubs or discussion groups could talk about the entitlement of the Royal boys as well as their father, Callum. They might also discuss women being defined by their former professions. Why can’t we move on from the term “Gold Digger”? Ella is left to fend for herself after her mother’s death. What qualities make her a survivor? Is Reed just another rich, bad boy in need of reforming, or does the author give him some depth? Do the other Royal boys show sign of becoming more interesting, or are they flat characters? The book doesn’t shy away from issues that confront teens today like profanity, underage drinking, bullying, elitism, classism, date rape, and sexual harassment. Do Ella’s choices in the novel make her a strong female character? Is Ella and Reed’s relationship toxic or romantic?
After by Anna Todd
The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegler
Reviewed by Beth K.