Pop Princess, by Isabelle Merlin

The most important moments of your life aren’t the ones you plan for. They’re the ones that you don’t see coming, that hang on a an accident of timing, a simple twist of fat. It’s like in that old Gwyneth Paltrow movie, you know, Sliding Doors, where what happens to her character depends on whether she manages to catch the train before the sliding doors close. Or not.

Lucie has just discovered that her best friend and her boyfriend are cheating on her. She doesn’t know what to think, what to do. So when her grandmother’s agency offers her an opportunity to travel to Paris for Christmas, she seizes it. She is to be a paid companion to Arizona Kingdom, an international pop singer. But this imagined paradise has some challenges. Arizona’s guardian is an overprotective relative they dub the Gorgon. Lucie is sure she and Arizona’s father are overprotective and should just lighten up. Sure, there are some odd characters around, but nothing that two teenagers can’t handle. Nothing is that simple, and Lucie’s already shaken sense of who to trust is rattled further. Being 16 in Paris might be glorious, but she’s discovering that there are secrets and mysteries almost everywhere she looks.

Pop Princess begins in Australia but the action rapidly moves across the world to Paris. Lucie’s life is already a little unusual in that she lives with her grandmother while her father jets around the world in search of stories for his books. He’s seldom at home. Her mother was a writer too but was killed in Russia in a botched kidnap-rescue attempt. But travelling to Paris to stay with a pop star and her apparently paranoid aunt and father, Lucie learns a lot more about different types of family. She tells her story in first person and is full of curiosity and confidence. These traits get her alternately into and out of trouble, both by herself and with her new friends. She’s constantly trying to make sense of the strangeness around her and having to reassess the trustworthiness of the people around her. Along the way, she learns to listen to her own voice. Pop Princess is aimed at teenage girls who enjoy a mystery, especially one set in the capital of fashion, history and romance, Paris. Recommended for 13 + readers.

Pop Princess, Isabelle Merlin
Random House Australia 2009
ISBN: 9781741663365

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author