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PRINCESS ASHLEY by Richard Peck Kirkus Star


by Richard Peck

Pub Date: May 15th, 1987
ISBN: 044020206X
Publisher: Delacorte

Here, Chelsea narrates the events in her sophomore and junior years, when she modeled herself on Ashley—lovely, rich, and apparently self-possessed. Starting Crestwood High at that painful time in early adolescence when self-definition is all-important, Chelsea feels so afflicted by her ambitious mother's new career as guidance counselor that she bitterly rejects her, seeing her insights concerning Chelsea as "witchy" and invasive. Though still feeling close to her ineffectual dog-trainer father, she's ripe for a new role model, and so when, astonishingly, the perfect Ashley taps her as friend, she goes along willingly. Cracks in Ashley's veneer provide early glimpses of the emptiness within—her poems are someone else's, she claims that her stepmother is her father's mistress, she casually drops Chelsea from a long-anticipated fashion show for her own convenience—yet Chelsea remains a loyal follower. Meanwhile, her friend Pod does his own growing from sophomoric poseur to more effective doer; their developing affection provides contrast as well as humor, since with Pod Chelsea is assertive from the beginning. But it takes cataclysmic revelations about both parents and a tragedy involving Ashley's boyfriend, whose glamour masks another debilitating conflict, to get Chelsea to see others clearly and begin to define herself. One of our finest writers of YA novels, Peck deftly captures the evolving concerns of 15- and 16-year-olds—their speech, anxieties, and shifting relationships with parents and peers. His witty, concise style and a plot full of surprising turns carry the reader quickly along; yet his characters are born of unusual wisdom and empathy for the teen condition. Another winner.