Review: The Prince And The Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Sebastian: You’re not weirded out?

Frances: What difference does it make? This is my dream job. — [X]

Prince Sebastian just turned sixteen years old and to his parents this makes him of a marriageable age, but marriage is the last thing on Sebastian’s mind. Sebastian has a secret: he loves to wear dresses.

When a chance encounter brings a budding dressmaker, Frances, into his life, Sebastian decides to be bolder, to be worthy of Frances’ art. During the day, Sebastian goes about his royal duties. At night, he dons Frances’ creations and a new personality as Lady Crystallia.

For the first time, he feels free. With Frances’ help he finally feels like himself.

But this double life cannot last forever, not least because Frances herself–while she finds herself falling for Sebastian–does not wish to languish in shadows and anonymity. Though she does not know how to protect Sebastian while furthering her own career.

The Prince and the Dressmaker is one of the most thoughtful books for teens (all-ages, really, but it can certainly be considered a YA book) about breaking gender binaries that I’ve read in a good long while. With gorgeous illustrations–and I mean, Vogue-level awesome–and dialogue that can make you laugh one minute and make you choke back tears the next, Jen Wang delivers a story with so much heart I could feel my chest ache as I read it. “Delightful” doesn’t cover it at all.

The pacing, as can be expected from a graphic novel of this length, is pretty fast, but I didn’t find it lacking in layers of story or character development. It is impressive how much Wang was able to convey here, whether it was Sebastian’s growth as a character, or the way Frances enjoys seeing Sebastian’s world expand all the while feeling her own world shrink, or even the way Paris is changing as a city at the turn of the century. And, unlike most books aimed at teens, Sebastian’s relationship with his parents is far from ignored, indeed it plays a crucial role in pretty much all the decisions he makes.

The book is like a warm hug on a frigid day and I kinda want to bake Jen Wang some cookies for bestowing this beauty upon us.

I honestly cannot recommend it enough.

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