Review: Mia the Magnificent by Eileen Boggess
Author: Eileen Boggess
Publication: Bancroft Press; January 4, 2010
Rating: 1.5 BOOKMARKS
Source: Review copy courtesy of Harrison at Bancroft Press
16-year-old Mia Fullerton faces all sorts of challenges in sophomore year, and if she can make it through unscathed, it will be a miracle.
Mia the Magnificentis the third installment of a YA* series by Eileen Boggess, and I was eager to see if it would be an appropriate read in any of my high school English classes. Boggess has a great premise–a strong female protagonist who faces the same sorts of challenges that many teenagers face–but ultimately, the book just doesn’t deliver.
The book is wholesome and filled with conflicts and obstacles but won’t resonate with most teenagers because it’s too juvenile. Mia the Magnificent appeals to a younger audience–a ‘tween’ demographic–but with some editing and new cover art, it would have broader appeal.
I don’t enjoy writing critical reviews and wanted a second opinion, so I brought the novel to school and introduced it, along with two other YA books, to my 10th grade class. I was interested to see if they would agree with my thoughts on the cover art and dialogue. (They didn’t read the books–we only discussed them based on excerpts and covers.)
For the last 11 years, I’ve spent thousands of hours teaching, listening to, and counseling teenagers. On the whole, teens are savvy, honest, and looking for validation as they muddle through the in-between world–no longer kids but not yet adults. Experience has honed my skills for finding YA books that my students will enjoy and on this authority I submit the following unorthodox-for-me critque of Mia the Magnificent:
- Cover Art: The cover art for this novel suggests a juvenile genre–Middle Grade–rather than YA. Many popular YA books feature slightly out of focus stock images of teenage girls, their faces blurred or obstructed, so that readers can project themselves into the situation. When I showed this novel to my class, they thought it was a book for late elementary or middle school students and preferred the other covers pictured below. They thought the cartoonish cover was “cute” but not sophisticated enough to make them grab it off the shelf at the bookstore.
- Dialogue and Stock Characters: Much of the dialogue in this novel felt forced–an adult interpretation of how teenagers speak. I’ve never heard my students say things like, “What are you cheezin’ about…”, “…totally awesome tunage (music)…” or, “Only you…could take a kiss and crash story and turn it into the snooze of the century.” Boggess also used similes and metaphors on almost every page. Characters “…bounced up and down like canary-colored yo-yos” and and their logic was compared to the Titanic after hitting the iceberg–“…completely full of holes…” Some characters, especially Jake, a former boyfriend of Mia’s, was a watered down parody of a bad boy. I never really connected with Mia as a character and found her to be a bit prickly to most of the other characters.
- Predictable Plot: At 161 pages, this novel is a quick read but I felt like it was slow-moving despite many conflicts and developments. There’s a car accident, a crisis at the school musical which thrusts Mia into the spotlight, and girl-fights over boys. Boggess tries to create a tension-filled love triangle, but one guy, Eric, isn’t around enough to really compete for Mia’s attention. The book is relatively clean–just a few kissing scenes and minimal profanity. There is a religious undercurrent that could be a turnoff for some teens but isn’t so overt that it renders the book unreadable for those who don’t subscribe to the dogma.
I’m sure that Boggess has a niche audience of ‘tweens’ and teens that adore the series, but for the books to have wider appeal, I’d suggest changing the covers, making the dialogue more realistic, giving the secondary characters more dimensions and depth, and letting Mia mature a bit through more sophisticated and complex conflicts and resolutions.
Thanks to Harrison at Bancroft for sending me this novel.
* In my opinion, this book is more of a late-middle grade read (grades 6-8).