Holly-Jane Rahlens. Prince William, Maximilian Minsky, and Me. Candlewick, 2007. ISBN 978-0763632991 320 pp. $7.99
It’s love at first sight when Nellie sees a photo of blonde-haired, blue-eyed heir to the throne Prince William. She lives in Germany and her chances of meeting the famous royal are slim to none. She’s a bookish girl, but a potential basketball championship with a grand prize trip to London results in a new friendship with a goth boy who helps the bookworm learn to dribble, pass and shoot.
The love triangle cover belies the complexity of the story. There are two major subplots: Nellie’s preparation for her bat mitzvah, and the dissolving of her musician parents’ marriage just as her thoughts are turning to romance. Strong adult characters also set the book apart–Nellie’s slightly obsessive mother and Casanova father, and a grandmotherly friend and her circle of biddies have depth and verve. Nellie is especially likable, precocious and obtuse at the same time. The German setting, international characters and Yiddish and Hebrew language droppings further enrich the text.
The book tackles Big Questions: faith and faithfulness, the nature of true love and true crushes, and identity and self-esteem with a does of humor. The tone occasionally gets too overly dramatic to be believed i.e., opening with a “once upon a time beginning” and concluding with another authorial intrusion that reminds us the story has been a reminiscence rather than happening in the now, making the voice of the protagonist waver too much between girlish and wise. Nellie herself is caught on a cusp, so it mostly works.
A glossary is appended; recommended for fans of Georgia Nicholson looking for less superficial stories about girls navigating into young adulthood.