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The Secret Life of Prince Charming
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The Secret Life of Prince Charming

4.3 33
by Deb Caletti

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A thoughtful, funny, and layered teen novel by National Book Award Finalist Deb Caletti.


A thoughtful, funny, and layered teen novel by National Book Award Finalist Deb Caletti.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a trenchant romance, NBA finalist Caletti (The Fortunes of Indigo Skye) detonates a few stereotypes about love even as her 17-year-old narrator falls head over heels for Mr. Right. Quinn, raised by a mother whose favorite lecture is "All Men Are Assholes," nevertheless feels loyal to her father, the eponymous Prince Charming whose self-centeredness harms the women he woos. She protects herself, she thinks, by making "good choices," which, she belatedly realizes, "also meant other people's choices." But when she discovers that her father has stolen objects prized by each of his lovers and wives, she determines to return them to their rightful owners; it's metaphorical as well as physical restitution. Joining up with a barely known half-sister, Quinn and her younger sister embark on a road trip; as the three meet the women injured by their father, Quinn also meets a wonderful guy, the antithesis of the supposedly safe boy she'd dated before; and everyone learns lessons in love. Interspersed throughout are monologues from the female adult characters (including Quinn's grandmother and aunt, who live with her), which add both perspective and a large dose of wit. Caletti's gifts for voice and for conjuring multidimensional personalities are at their sharpest. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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Children's Literature - Jillian Hurst
Love is not all that it is cracked up to be. That is the message that Quinn Hunt is hearing all around her. The women in her life have had their hearts broken and are not afraid to share how they were hurt. After her once-absent father comes back into her life, Quinn realizes the destructive path that he left behind with his love-‘em-and-leave-‘em routine. She and her younger sister Sprout join together with a half sister they have never met in a quest to reconcile their father's wrongdoings. Along the journey, Quinn learns recurrent themes about love—how it can be one-sided, selfish, damaging, and dangerous—but she also discovers that there can be hope in love, and that maybe, just maybe, true love can exist after all. Quinn's narration depicts the familiar details of real life in a story that would translate well into the screenplay of a movie. The ironic reference to Prince Charming in the title should not fool the reader; this book is not for those looking for a fairy-tale love story. Embittered and cynical lessons on love leave the reader to wonder if the author, Deb Caletti, may have had her own heart broken in the past and has put it on her agenda to warn others about the dangers—and the subtle possibilities—of love. Reviewer: Jillian Hurst
VOYA - Shari Fesko
The intricacies of life and love are poignantly detailed in Caletti's latest contemporary fiction. Seventeen-year-old Quinn is being raised by her single mother with assistance from a feisty grandmother and outspoken aunt. None of these women has any luck with men, and Quinn joins them because her supposedly safe boyfriend commits the ultimate betrayal. She nurses her mixed feelings about the break-up and wonders about her mysterious father, who recently re-entered her life. When she discovers a room full of items belonging to her father's exes, she is determined to reunite them with their rightful owners. Caletti weaves in bits of wisdom from the women in Quinn's family as well as from each of the women they visit throughout the narrative. She explores the concept of true love and also examines the many types of love within a family. She brings into play different types of family connections, including half-sister Frances Lee whom Quinn and her younger sister Sprout enlist for the mission. These relationships are carefully explored as the three girls learn about themselves, each other, and the father they barely know through the eyes of the women he loved. Caletti is a master of language and an astute observer of the human condition. Her characters are believable, and the girl's quest has a realistic outcome that never turns overly sentimental. The ending is hopeful but not tied up too neatly and will leave readers longing for more. Reviewer: Shari Fesko
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Quinn Hunt, 17, has been warned about the dangers of love all her life. Her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother are veterans of numerous bad relationships with men and have even posted a list of warning signs on the refrigerator. Quinn has recently reconnected with her estranged father, who is charming and exciting to be around, but her dealings with him are increasingly difficult because of his selfishness and narcissism. In a rapid succession of events, she discovers that her supposedly "safe" boyfriend has in fact been cheating on her, and she then finds that her father has a collection of treasured objects that he has stolen from his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. Quinn and her younger sister, Sprout, team up with their older half-sister Frances Lee to go on a road trip to return all the mementos to these women. During the process, Quinn hears previously unknown details of her father's past and discovers real love with a musician who appears to be a bad boy but is really sweet and sensitive. This is a thoughtful, funny, and empowering spin on the classic road novel. There are many serious reflections on love, good and bad, voiced by the various women, but there are also a number of comic episodes to balance the seriousness. Because of its strong language and the mature themes, this is best suited to older teens, who will appreciate what it has to say about love, relationships, and getting what you need.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

Kirkus Reviews
Caletti traverses familiar narrative terrain-emotionally wounded women search for Mr. Right amongst an overabundance of Mr. Wrongs-and adds a road trip as the vehicle for finding truth. Seventeen-year-old Quinn Hunt is appalled when she discovers that her father, a womanizer, has kept as trophies objects of great emotional importance that belonged to each of his numerous lovers. Along with a cast of unlikely mates, including a stepsister she's never met, Quinn sets off to return the stolen items. Slow going at first, the familiar plot perks up during the trip. The first-person narrative is humorous and chatty as Quinn recounts her frustration with her father and her hopes that this "karmic mission" will heal their strained relationship. Punctuating this, and set apart in a different typeface, are the accounts of the other female characters as they share their romantic mistakes. The author excels at getting to the heart of her protagonists' mixed-up emotions, and her fans will not be disappointed. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.66(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.93(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Secret Life of Prince Charming

Chapter One

When it came to love, my mother’s big advice was that there were WARNING SIGNS. About the “bad” guys, that is. The ones who would hurt you or take advantage or crumple you up and toss, same as that poem I would once try to write for Daniel Jarvis. The wrong men—the psychopaths, cheaters, liars, controllers, stalkers, ones too lazy or incompetent to hold a job, to hold their temper, to hold you properly, to hold anything but a joint or a beer bottle—well, there were RED FLAGS, and you had to watch for them. If you were handling love correctly, it should go the way of those Driver’s Ed videos, where things were jumping out at you right and left and you had to be on alert—a swerving truck, a child’s ball rolling into the street. The important thing was, love was dangerous. Love was that dark alley you were walking down where your purse might be snatched.

Love was also an easy word, used carelessly. Felons and creeps could offer it coated in sugar, and users could dangle it so enticingly that you wouldn’t notice it had things attached—heavy things, things like pity and need, that were as weighty as anchors and iron beams and just as impossible to get out from underneath.

“They ought to make people apply for a permit before they can say they love you,” Mom said once. I remember this—she was in our big kitchen, holding a mug of coffee in both hands, warming her fingers against an image of Abe Lincoln embossed on ceramic, the oldest mug in the house, from when my father once went to Springfield, Illinois, home of our sixteenth president. Mom was talking to me and Gram and Aunt Annie, who both lived with us, and the sound of cartoons was coming from the living room, where my little sister Sprout was sitting cross-legged on the floor in her pajamas.

“Yeah. Make a man pay fifty bucks and take one of those mental tests,” Gram said. She was fishing around in the kitchen drawer as butter melted in a pan for scrambled eggs. “Quinn, help an old lady find the damn whisk,” she said to me.

“Cynics,” Aunt Annie said, but she did so with a sigh. “You’re both cynics.” She tightened the sash of her robe around her. She’d just started seeing Quentin Ferrill at the time. We knew him only as the Double Tall Chai Latte No Foam guy, who gave long looks at Aunt Annie when he asked how her day was going across the counter at Java Jive, where Aunt Annie was a barista. Looks that shared secrets, she had told us. “Looks that are trying to get you into bed, is more like it,” Gram had replied.

The favorite lecture of some mothers was Don’t Talk to Strangers or, maybe, Look Both Ways. My mother’s favorite was All Men Are Assholes.

I tended to side with Aunt Annie that they were cynics. I was only seventeen—I wasn’t ready to be jaded yet. I was just at the start of the relationship road, where lip-gloss-love ends and you’re at that Y where if you go one way, you’ll have flat, easy pathways and everlasting happiness, and if you go the other, the rocky and steep slopes of heartbreak—only you have no idea which way is which. I liked to think I was already heading in the right direction, determined to prove my mother wrong by making Good Choices. I was sort of the queen of good choices, ruled by niceness and doing the right thing. Good choices meant asking that weird, solitary Patty Hutchins to your birthday party even when you didn’t want to. Good choices meant getting your homework in on time and being on the volleyball team and sharing a locker with someone who played the clarinet instead of someone who drank their parents’ Scotch. It meant liking math because it makes sense and liking your family even if they don’t make sense and driving carefully and knowing you’d go to college. It meant taking careful steps and being doomed to be someone no one really remembered at the high school reunion.

I think “good choices” also meant other people’s choices to me, then. I could feel hazy and undefined, even to myself. Was I going to be amazing, the best, the most incredible—win a Nobel Prize in mathematics, achieve great heights, as Dad would constantly tell me? Or was I going to be someone who would only continue to stumble and flounder and search, which is what I really felt would happen, since Dad’s words sounded as shiny and hollow as Christmas ornaments to me? Maybe I would be simply ordinary. What would happen if that were the case? Just ordinary? And how did you get to a place where you knew where you were headed and what you wanted? I hate to admit this, I do, but the fact was, if most of my friends wanted hamburgers, I wanted hamburgers, and if the whole class kept their hands down during a vote, I would not be the single raised hand. No way. Too risky. When you went along, you could be sure of a positive outcome. A plus B equals C. When you didn’t go along, you got A plus X equals a whole host of possibilities, including, maybe, pissing off people and ending up alone. I badly wished I could know my own truths and speak them, but they seemed out of reach, and it seemed better to be sure of yourself in secret.

And in love? Good choices so far meant my boyfriend, Daniel Jarvis, whom I’d been dating for over a year. Dating meaning he’d come over to my house and we’d watch a video and he’d hold my hand until it got too sweaty. Teachers loved Daniel, and he ran track and was polite to my mother and went to church every Sunday morning with his family. Daniel was nice. Like me. He made good choices too. He bought that Toyota instead of the classic little MG Midget with the broken convertible top that he’d run his hands over lovingly. Toyota love was only responsible love—remembering to put the gas cap on, refilling the wiper fluid. Convertible love was fingertips drawn slow over the curve of warm metal.

My inner evil twin, the one who would say the things I didn’t want to hear but that were the truth, would also say that oatmeal is nice. Second-grade teachers are nice. That Christmas present from Aunt So and So was nice, the little pearl stud earrings. My inner evil twin also knows that the kind of nice that appears in the phrase “But he’s nice,” that emphasis, well, it’s suspiciously defensive. Sort of like when you buy a shirt you don’t really like because it was half off and then say, “But it was a good buy.” Justification for giving in to things we don’t feel one hundred percent for. Maybe I just wanted to believe in love, even if I didn’t all the way believe in me and Daniel Jarvis. Maybe what Daniel Jarvis and I had was half-off love.

With Daniel, there weren’t any red flags, but there weren’t any blue ones or green ones, either; no beautiful silk flags with gold threads and patterns so breathtaking they could make you dizzy when they blew in the wind. It was enough, maybe, not to have bad things, even if you didn’t have great things. For example, my best friend, Liv, went out with this guy, Travis Becker, whom she was totally in love with until she found out he was seeing two other girls at the same time and had recently been arrested for breaking and entering. God. Then again, Liv is beautiful and I am not. Good choices are a little harder, maybe, when you have lots of options.

As for Mom, I’m guessing she began developing her favorite lecture somewhere around the time her own father (Gram’s wayward husband, the elusive Rocky Siler) left when she was two, and after her stepfather (Otto Pearlman, Aunt Annie’s dad) did the same thing ten years later. She added to the running theme when she and my dad divorced after his affair with Abigail Renfrew, and perfected it sometime after her three-year relationship with Dean. Or, as we call him now, OCD Dean. He and his two horrible children moved in with us for a while after Dad left, before Gram and Aunt Annie moved in. Let me tell you, people of different values don’t belong under the same roof. We named Dean’s kids Mike and Veruca, after those characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike Teavee and Veruca Salt (“Da-dee! I want an Oompa Loompa now!”). It got so bad with them there that it felt like some kind of home-invasion robbery where the robbers decide to live with you afterward. Mom, Sprout, and me would go somewhere and leave them behind, and when we had to come back, Mom would sometimes drive right past our house. We can’t go in there, she’d say, as if the building itself were dangerous, filled with toxic fumes, threatened by a collapsing structure. As if the problem was with the house and not the people in it.

My mother, Mary Louise Hoffman, is a graphic designer who used to paint and had shown her work at several galleries. She used to dance, too, which is how she met my father—they actually performed in a show together. It’s hard to imagine her as this painter/dancer wearing swirling skirts and swoopy earrings; there’s a picture of her from the time just before she met Dad—someone had snapped her in the middle of a cartwheel, only one hand on a deep green grassy lawn somewhere, her feet in the air. It seems odd; it seems like a different her, because her feet were so firmly on the ground after that. She was sort of the super-functioning head woman in our clan. Mom handled things—she could sign a permission slip at the same time she was steaming wrinkles from a blouse and cooking Stroganoff. But if you got her started on the man thing, she’d get a little crazy-extremist, super focused and wild-eyed both, like those anti-or pro-religious people, only without the religion part.

Most particularly, you didn’t want to get her started on my dad. “Men” meant him, especially, multiplied by a gajillion. She tended to forget that he was my father, that he was her ex, not mine. And that I wanted to love him, needed for him to love me back because he hadn’t been in my life always. Her constant reminders about why I shouldn’t didn’t help anything. Actually, they hurt her cause. Because every time I heard anything about him, or about “men,” I put up a nice new stone in my mental defense wall of him. It’s sort of like how you protect the little kid from the bully. You want to say, Hey, every time you do that, I love Dad more, but you don’t say that. When your parents are divorced, there’s a lot you don’t say. And another thing you think but don’t dare speak: When you talk bad about each other, you’re wasting your breath. I stopped listening years ago. You stop listening when you figure out that the words aren’t actually directed at you, anyway. That you’re basically a wire between two telephones.

Anyway. I guess what I mean to say, what I should say right off, is that I knew good choices did not include stealing things from my own father’s house. I knew that, and I did it anyway. I had to. Frances Lee, the half sister I never knew but know now, would say this about what we did: sometimes good choices are really only bad ones, wrapped up in so much fear you can’t even see straight.

Meet the Author

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include Stay; The Nature of Jade; and Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, winner of the Washington State Book Award and the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her books for adults include He’s Gone and her latest release, The Secrets She Keeps. She lives with her family in Seattle.

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The Secret Life of Prince Charming 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
R4Life More than 1 year ago
Deb Caletti has done it again, she has written a book that I can fully relate to. With every single book I have read by her, I have taken home a valuable lesson in life that all girls should read. In The Secret Life of Prince Charming, Caletti analyzes what the world sees as love. She breaks down the troubles of relationships in the form of the women Quinn meets in her karmic quest. They each have their own story with Barry, Quinn's father, who was the epitome of a bad relationship. After reading this book I realized what I saw as love was really a toxic relationship. Love isn't the unconditional giving up of your heart in hopes of love in return, it is about balance and being with somebody who really, truly makes you happy. I plan on making my little sister reading this. Just like me, she has a thing or two to learn about true love. I recommend this book to any and every girl out there because we need to realize who our real Prince Charming is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book speacks the truth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed my way through this book a must read it was awesome!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is AMAZING!!!!!! It speak the truth!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely positively am in deep love with Deb Calleti's writing style. Its like i have a deep and burning pasion in my heart for her book and ,im sure if i got the chance to meet the woman, i would lov her personality. Evn i she is older she has this youthful outlook on things and it makes me feel like a character in her book. I really enjoy them as much as I do Suzanne Collins.(i read the whole HungerGame series last year in January after i bought them all in one setting. Girl let me tell you- they were not cheap!)
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
The Secret Life of Prince Charming (2009) is the latest book from critically acclaimed writer Deb Caletti. Some have suggested that the cover art is misleading, suggesting to readers that they will find a peppy, romantic comedy type of book inside. If, however, the cover is taken more in terms of generalities, it is a perfect visual representation of this book's core--a meditation on love, truth, family and, of course, relationships. Seventeen-year-old Quinn has grown up in the shadow of bad relationships. She knows all the gory details of her aunt's numerous breakups, the story behind her grandmother's two collapsed marriages. Quinn and her little sister Sprout are also intimately familiar with their mother's divorce from their father. Despite all that knowing, Quinn is still desperate for her father to be a part of her life. Still, in order to combat all of those poor choices, Quinn has made herself into the responsible girl who makes good and wise decisions. That facade begins to slip away when Quinn starts to look more closely at her life and the objects that inhabit it. Quinn already knew that her father wasn't perfect. Charming, witty, fun Barry can also be selfish, irresponsible and vindictive. When she realizes that Barry has amassed trophies from every one of his ex-girlfriends, Quinn knows she has to take action. Such is the start of the road trip at the core of The Secret Life of Prince Charming. With the help of the half-sister she doesn't know and the little sister who might see more clearly than either, Quinn sets out to right her father's wrongs and return the objects to their rightful owners. What starts as a simple delivery mission turns into something more as each stop brings Quinn closer to the father she never really knew. This book handles a lot of things in a masterful way. First and foremost the writing throughout the novel is, frankly, stunning. Quinn's narrative is interspersed with snippets of advice from the women in Barry's life talking about love and their own past relationships. In total this amounts to about half a dozen different narrative voices in one novel. The characters are all well-realized and truly unique. Caletti also provides an interesting window onto the reality of divorce as seen by the children when no one is watching. Most of all, though, this story deals with what it really means to have an estranged father. Despite all of the evidence, Quinn loves her father and in many ways idolizes him at the beginning of the story. As the plot moves forward, Quinn is forced to address her mixed feelings for her father and acknowledge that the truth about him might be very different from the image she created over the years. (The idolization of father figures is not always something that makes sense to me butCaletti carefully examines the subject from all angles and integrates it well into the storyline.) The Secret Life of Prince Charming is not a lot of things. It is not action-packed. It is not, in some ways, much of a romance. It is not fast paced. But this book is compelling and beautiful and highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book if u want to read it,READIT!!!
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
I can never get enough of Ms. Caletti writing. All of her books are totally, freaking awesome! And just like her others book, this book touches something very life changing: Fathers. I am that type of girl who has daddy issues. I am also that type of girl who fathers dates girl old enough to be my sister. Currently my father girlfriend is 28. I'm 26. Shutters. So I know. And this book really brought to light my feelings in the way I feel towards my dad but also brought me some closure. This book I really related to, like no other book. Quinn is searching for the truth in who her father really is. And the truth she finds is not what she expected to get. I love the plot line of the story. It gave an amazing insight to all the women Quinn's father dated and what really happened in their relationship. It also showed just how much all of these relationships had an effect on the women's life and the children. I adored Quinn and the quest she went on. She loved her father (just like I loved mine) but she need to find inner peace in what he has done. Quinn learned things the hard way. I am glad that she saw past his prince charming ways and saw things for what they really are. The love interest in this book amazed me. I didn't think that there will be one since Quinn is so against guys and what her father did. The love interest that sparked up in the book gave me hope for Quinn that she may love after all. She had the courage to return items and tell her father how she felt. It did turn out as expected but she came out a new person. Ms. Caletti once again, wrote a great book with a great life lesson. All of her books I adore and enjoys. The Secret Life of Prince Charming isn't what we thought about the Prince after all. He has flaws, and he has his ways. Fantastic story and amazing characters!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Seniorgirl11 More than 1 year ago
I devour books. Like 3 to 4 a week but this one took me like 3 weeks because i had other more interesting books to read, once they were gone and i had none to read it still took a while. Its good but slow. The first half was sooo slow. But once they actually begin the "quest" it gets better. Ending isnt great...its predictable and kinda lacking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kim2 More than 1 year ago
Since Quinn was young, she has constantly heard about how awful men are. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother have all been in bad relationships, and feel the need to warn Quinn about the men she should stay away from. They write bad things on the fridge to remember. This also includes her dad, who has just recently come back into her and her sister's lives. Then Quinn discovers that all of her dad's "prized possessions" are actually things he's stolen from the women he's been with, she decides to right her father's wrongs. Quinn calls her half-sister she barely knows, and they set out to return the items that their father has stolen. On this road trip, Quinn learns the truth about her father, mends the hearts of some of his exes, and might even mend hers along the way. Quinn and her sisters were riding around and delivering the objects to their rightful owners. A lot the women that their father had dated or married were really nice people, and the objects were some of their prized possessions. they drove all around the state of Washington and into Canada was so crazy! I also liked how Quinn and her sister Sprout hardly knew their half-sister Frances Lee, and yet they got in a car with her to complete this quest. The girls became so close, everyone grow into a family. And it was nice to getting some relationship advices from the author and the characters too. The book was funny, smart and heartfelt. Quinn was a great protagonist and she developed into a very interesting character throughout the book that I could relate to. Quinn grew up and learned a lot about relationships and love that things can change. It was so sweet to see everyone become a family over their four-day journey. And there were some really funny moments in there, too, making this book a worthy read that recommend everyone to read!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book was great at the beginning it was kinda slow but then it when she and her and little sister meet her older step sister Frances Lee they come up with the idea to give all the most priced possessions that there father took from his exes give them back and to know the story while they go on this journey Quinn meets Jake Kennedy a guy that she falls in love with. in the book though i thought that she was going to meet him like in Frances lee living room playing his guitar but instead this is how she met him.... talking myself out of the need to get up was going nowhere that never works its one of those things you know but try anyway. i swung my legs out of bed and onto the cool wood floor . i was at the bathroom door standing right there i realize what was happening. what my eyes were seeing. A na............ the rest is even more funny but to find out you will have to buy or borrow a book from the library
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This is not your usual YA book. It's very well written. I started to highlight all the great lines but had to stop because there were too many. It is thought provoking and amazing and I recommend it completely.