A Secret Princess

Putnam. Jun. 2022. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984812049.
Gr 9 Up–In this mashup of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, readers meet teen outcasts Mary, Sara, and Cedric, who are friends that attend the Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentlemen in 1860s England. Mary is soon orphaned when her father passes away; he leaves her penniless, and she is told she will be leaving for America. Cedric comes to her rescue and shares that he is the son of an earl with an estate and money, so the three friends decide to run away together. Budding romances start to blossom as the friends enjoy their time at Maythem Estate. This book falls a little flat in the retellings of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s stories. The characters perceive themselves younger than their actual ages, which can be distracting. The romances happen a little too fast and don’t seem relatable. The prologue is also a little confusing, with the mention of a genie—it is never made clear if Mary is dreaming or not. Besides these issues, it is refreshing to see diversity in the cast; Sara is Filipino and Cedric experiences seizures; their identities allow Stohl and de la Cruz to bring discussions of wealth, racism, and physical ailments to light in the 1860s.
VERDICT Recommend to teens who enjoy A Little Princess and The Secret Garden but have their expectations kept to a medium.

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