Sunday, June 30, 2019

Book Review: "The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang

"Some days I look at myself in the mirror and think, 'That's me, Prince Sebastian! I wear boy clothes and look like my father.' Other days it doesn't feel right at all. Those days I feel like I'm actually...a princess."

Prince Sebastian is 16 years old, and his parents are pressuring him to find a wife. They keep suggesting all types of young women, princesses and other royalty from other countries. He knows he needs to be strategic to help the kingdom, but his heart isn't in it. It's not that some of these young women aren't nice, that he doesn't enjoy their company, it's just...he has a secret.

While by day, Sebastian fulfills his obligations as prince (sometimes just by the skin of his teeth), by night, Sebastian likes to dress in beautiful, eye-catching gowns, and take Paris society by storm as Lady Crystallia. His best friend, Frances, happens to be the most talented dressmaker and seamstress, and she creates Lady Crystallia's gowns, each one more avant-garde than the next.

It's hard, however, when you're the only one who knows your friend's deepest secret. Obviously, you want to protect your friend, but what if it means having to keep your achievements a secret, too? Everyone knows that Frances is Sebastian's seamstress, but if she started to get acclaim as the dressmaker for Lady Crystallia, it won't take long for people—especially the king and queen—to put two and two together and realize who Lady Crystallia really is. And that would be disastrous for Sebastian.

Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker is an absolutely wonderful graphic novel with gorgeous illustrations and an amazingly heartfelt story. Not only does it deal with the sacrifices we often make for our friends, and how sometimes we ask our friends for too much in an effort to enable us from avoiding important decisions, its unabashedly positive message that no one really should care what makes people happy if we love them made this book the perfect ending to my month of LGBTQ reads for Pride month.

Some have expressed criticism that Sebastian never declares himself to be gay, trans, or whatever, but all I kept thinking when I read this was the line from "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga: "Don't be a drag, just be a queen." Sebastian clearly expresses his conflict over his identity, and at 16, it's entirely plausible that he's unsure exactly how he wants to live his entire life.

This is the second graphic novel I've read this month and I am loving this genre. This was a super-quick read, but boy, did it warm my heart completely. It's such an amazing tribute to friendship, love, acceptance, and being exactly who you are. How can you quibble with that?

Find this amazing book, take it to your heart, and share it with those you care about.

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