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Book review: Leavitt delivers a tween treat with new novel, 'The Royal Treatment'

By Liesl Shurtliff

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 14 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

"THE ROYAL TREATMENT," by Lindsey Leavitt, Hyperion, $16.99, 272 pages (f)

Thirteen-year-old Desi Bascomb has the best job ever: subbing for princesses who need a break from their high-profile lives. Just put on some magic powder and she transforms into a princess in need, all as part of the perks of The FaÇade Agency. Oh, and she gets to travel by bubble. What’s not to love?

The second book in the "Princess for Hire" series “The Royal Treatment” continues with the same sparkle and spunk as the first book and brings the magic to a whole new level. Desi is promoted to a Level Two princess substitute and takes a shot at the school play.

But soon Desi is in over her head with princess jobs, Shakespeare and a new cute boy. Furthermore the head-honcho at FaÇade is suddenly very interested in Desi’s MP, her “magic potential,” and things at the agency don’t exactly add up in Desi’s mind. Is there more to FaÇade than she’s been told?

Given the sparkly covers and princess themes, it may be surprising to some that author Lindsey Leavitt was a bit of a tomboy growing up. "Even though I grew up a tomboy, I still had a fascination with beauty queens, old Hollywood, and royal history," said Leavitt, who attended Brigham Young University and lived in Murray while teaching elementary school. She now lives in Las Vegas.

On the surface this book is a marshmallow, plenty of sugar and fluff that girls love. But there’s some surprising depth to the book as well, about identity and the awareness that comes when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy for Desi to see what her clients’ needs are, but when it comes to her own life, she flounders.

"I always gave my girlfriends sage boy tips," Leavitt said, "but couldn’t even talk to my own crush. Listening to yourself, to your own advice, takes courage and Desi finds that courage through walking in other girls' shoes. Er, heels."

Leavitt read many of her old journals and scrapbooks to re-create in her books the emotions that come along with junior high.

"Junior High was angstsville for me. I was awkward and unsure and, well, 13," she says.

Those strong feelings carried over well into her books and lent an authentic and spunky teen voice. "Sure, I added princesses and a magical institution," said Leavitt, "but those feelings still stayed the same."

“The Royal Treatment” is a book teen girls will adore. It is also the squeaky-clean kind of book parents can feel at ease letting their girls read.

The third installment of the "Princess for Hire" series will be published in May 2012. Lindsey Leavitt also has a young-adult book out this month entitled "Sean Griswold's Head" from Bloomsbury.

IF YOU GO ...

What: Lindsey Leavitt book signing for "The Royal Treatment" and "Sean Griswold's Head"

When: Saturday, May 21, 4 p.m.

Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Liesl Shurtliff holds a bachelor's degree in music, dance and theater and writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. She blogs at writerropes.blogspot.com.

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