Growing up, every little girl wants to be a princess. I know my younger sister had a costume box filled with poofy princess dresses, and would valiantly parade around the house making demands. She's 25 now and still parades around the house making demands, but I digress. At a certain age however, playtime and dress-up disappears from the docket, and other interests such as make-up, school work, and boys tend to slowly takeover the space once occupied by princess parties. The next best thing to actually being a princess is being paid to be one at a family amusement park, but what's going to happen to your paycheck if said amusement park is being forced to shut down? Will you stand and fight, or resort to being an unemployed high school graduate with no real life plans?
That's the premise of Monica Gallagher's original graphic novel Part-Time Princesses from Oni Press. A group of friends work at the local amusement park as princesses, only until they graduate from high school and go their separate ways. Life throws each girl for a loop when their plans of travel, college and modeling don't work out, forcing them to return to their crappy part-time jobs as princesses at a failing amusement park. With the crime rate up at the park it's practically a ghost town, making the girls feel like it's their duty to intervene and catch those responsible for the lack of attendees.
Amber, Tiffany, Courtney and Michelle are all starting their senior year in high school, and together are the four most popular girls. Much like the Plastics from the movie Mean Girls, these girls see themselves as better than their fellow students and amusement park coworkers. Amber can't wait to graduate so she can start her career as a runway model in New York. Tiffany dreams of traveling Europe and having many flings with boys. Michelle has her eye on attending only the best colleges. Michelle sees herself as prime cheerleader material at the University of Texas. Their senior year in high school and at the amusement park is nothing but a waste of time to them, a prison of boredom until they can finally start their lives and get away from their wretched town. It's a pity when spoiled princesses don't get what they want the most.
While all this is going on, there have been a string of robberies and vandalism at Enchanted Park, causing residents and attendees to stay away. If business doesn't pick up soon, the park will have to close and the girls will be out of their jobs as princesses, the only thing they have left going for them in a post-graduation world. Turning their lives around, they start investing blood, sweat and tears into the place they once loathed, and vow to learn self-defense and martial arts to bring these vandals to justice.
Overall, I found the graphic novel to be a bit underwhelming. These girls aren't likable whatsoever and it's hard to emphasize with them about their first world problems. Being pretty and popular doesn't always get you what you want, so one of the most refreshing parts of the story was seeing just that. While the girls do try to get their acts together by the end of the story, they're not all that much nicer to their fellow employees, to which once again they see themselves better than. The saying, "a leopard never changes its spots," comes to mind and these characters are straight-up petty.
The illustrations were beautifully executed throughout, but with the subject matter being princesses and amusement parks, the book could have definitely used a colorist. It didn't really feel like a completed graphic novel, and where the art is better than the storyline, color would have definitely helped maintain the reader's attention.
I assume the target demographic of this title is young female readers, for which I question the message it sends to them. Something tells me that the popular girls in high school won't be reading this book, let alone comics. So those who do read this book I'm sure won't be relating to the main characters. In fact, they might hate the book because it might remind them of their current Mean Girls classmates.
It was a good idea for a comic book, but really suffered from not having a satisfying ending, nor likable characters. If these girls were helping run an amusement park in my town, I wouldn't have a problem seeing it shut down.