When I received the books for my tournament bracket, I was already in the middle of Prince in Disguise. So, Prince automatically gained a few points due to it being a book I was already reading without adding another title to my ever-growing list. Want, on the other hand, is a diverse sci-fi dystopian novel, and I’m a sucker for diverse sci-fi so they both started out with points on a pretty level playing field.
WANT by CINDY PON
In future dystopian Taiwan, there are yous who live in luxury and meis who live in poverty. Pollution and illness is rampant, especially for meis without the resources to buy suits to purify the air. Zhou and his group of mei friends have a plan to take down the you infrastructure and bring environmental reform. Their plan means Zhou must infiltrate you society and live as a you to gain information.
If that paragraph was confusing, with meis and yous, nearly the first quarter of the book felt similar. I thought the use of “you” as a people group throughout the book would drive me crazy, and it did at first, but the world-building is superb, the action great and really my enjoyment of the book overtook my annoyance relatively quickly. Want reads similar to a younger, less complex Red Rising.
PRINCE IN DISGUISE by STEPHANIE KATE STROHM
The premise to Prince in Disguise is just so crazy, it’s believable. Dylan has lived her whole life in her beauty queen sister Dusty’s shadow. Dusty ended up on a reality TV Bachelor-like show called Prince in Disguise (where the “Bachelor” is a prince, except Ronan isn’t a prince – he’s a lord). Dusty and Ronan are engaged and planning a wedding in Scotland, which is the focus of a special season of Prince in Disguise. The book opens with Dusty asking/informing Dylan that she will be a part of the wedding edition of the reality TV show and get to spend a few weeks in Scotland. Dylan is less than pleased (to say the least) she would rather not be on reality TV at all. When Dylan arrives in Scotland she is constantly being put into less than flattering situations, but at least there is Jamie, a cute, funny groomsman of Ronan’s.
This book is full of funny and awkward scenarios, weird twists, and family drama. I definitely expected a few of the “twists” but a couple of them surprised me as well. Though, the surprise of the twists was less “I didn’t see that coming!” and more “Of course, that’s how it would go down on reality TV, how did I NOT see this!!” It reads like a combination of The Bachelor and The Royal We, in all the best ways. Reading this book will give you all the delightful guilty pleasure of an evening spent watching The Bachelor or trolling the internet for Harry and Megan rumors (not that I have such experience 😉 ).
And the winner is…
Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Honestly, these two books were neck and neck for nearly the whole time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to decide, and it came down to the ending. Both of these books follow pretty popular storylines and have lots of tropes. In the case of Prince the fun had with the predictable twists was the exact point of this sort of novel. In the end, Prince was able to fully embody those tropes, while adding something to the conversation – love at 16 might not be end game while still having a happy and satisfying ending. On the other hand, Want’s ending felt like a back loaded information dump. The ending of Want had twists and a lot of information to set up for a potential sequel, but it felt like too much at the end and not enough throughout. So yay mushy-crazy-royal-reality-TV-romance!