American Royals (American Royals, #1) by Katharine McGee
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 3, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
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One of my goals in reviewing books is to not only share my opinion about a book, but also to remain objective enough in my opinions that you, dear readers, can form your own opinion about whether or not you want to read that book. All that is out the window with today’s review because I LOVED American Royals and can’t be remotely objective about it. Still, to feel pure joy about anything these days is such a gift I have to share, even if this book may not appeal to other readers at all.
American Royals is a young adult novel set in an alternate reality. But wait…it’s a really interesting premise. After the Revolutionary War it’s decided that George Washington should be king not president. America becomes a monarchy with a Congress instead of Parliament. Fast forward to today where Beatrice is the 21-year-old daughter of the current king. Her grandfather abolished the law stating only a first-born son could inherit the crown so she is in line to be the first Queen of America.
Beatrice has been groomed since birth to rule. She is a diligent student with a sharp mind and even temperament. She is so highly attuned to her future that she is almost completely shut down emotionally. Dating is not an option because her every move is documented in the press. But now her parents have decided that she needs to think about marriage, as a consort will help alleviate some of the loneliness of being a monarch. With no experience at all, the idea terrifies Beatrice, but she agrees to meet the young men from the list of pre-approved candidates her parents give her.
Just like any monarchy (I’m looking at you Windsors) the other children in the Washington family take advantage of being the ‘spares’ by acting out. Samantha and Jefferson are 18-year-old twins. Done with high school they’ve just returned from a worldwide tour with no holds barred. Embarrassing incidents like ditching their protection agents and running into traffic in Thailand has put them in hot water when they return home. At the same time, at least one of them wonders how life could be different if they could rule.
The American Royals cast is rounded out by two young women. Samantha’s best friend, Nina, a commoner who’s known the family since she was a little girl. Daphne is the oh-so-perfect, recently dumped girlfriend of Prince Jefferson. Another commoner, she is determined to become a princess. Both struggle with their closeness to royalty, but in different ways.
There you have it. But why did this make me so happy? For one, to read about stability in government right now was a welcome relief. I know, there have been atrocious monarchs, but this is fiction and reading a thoughtful, grown-up leader discuss public policy felt incredibly soothing. No wide divisive swings at the top. No outrageous behavior and ignorance. Elections left to Congress. It’s a luscious escape from reality.
There’s also the fact that the novel’s plot (which is full of spoilers so I can’t say much more) is young romance and coming-of-age. I’m sure to real young adults the emotional aspects of American Royals might have more weight, but as a long-time adult (at least chronologically) it’s all a vague memory. Which is to say, it makes for reading that is pure entertainment. There is nothing recognizable to me in the characters or the circumstances so I could put my brain in neutral and inhale the book like a welcome treat.
The main reason I’m giving American Royals five stars is the writing. Author Katharine McGee does an outstanding job, creatively, in coming up with this unique premise and in following it all the way through. There is thought behind the novel and even more importantly, there is skill in the writing. Even in the rom-com or chick-lit world I have no patience for silliness or poor writing. There is neither here. There is only an abundance of wit, intellect, and attention to detail. It all adds up to sublime fun, a book I didn’t want to end, and that still makes me smile.
Last but not least? American Royals ends with a huge cliffhanger because there is a sequel! And yes, I am jumping up and down. Majesty came out this month. I’m anxiously awaiting a copy.
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