We all know the story of Gwen: When she was born, her parents made a little mistake with the guest list, which led to the ticking off of a bad fairy, which led to the prick her finger on a spinning wheel and sleep for 100 years curse. Such a curse adds a lot of stress, not to mention all the work involved in keeping a kingdom spinning-wheel free. So when Annie was born, her parents begged a good fairy to find a way to protect their second daughter from similar curses. With a wave of her wand, the good fairy makes Annie immune to magic. Since this also has the effect of dampening all magic used around Annie, her parents are a little put out when their own magically-enhanced beauty and charms fade whenever Annie is around. Still, she's safe, and as long as she stands far away from her family, Annie's gift has little effect.
Life is fairly ho-hum for Annie until Gwen manages to get her hands on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and the kingdom-sleeps-for-100-years curse is set in motion. Everyone in the castle drops instantly into sleep, all except, of course, Annie. Never one to wait around for someone else to fix things for her, Annie sets out on a mission to find a prince to kiss her sister and end the curse. But which prince is her sister's true love? There's no way of knowing, so Annie sends every prince she finds back to her family's castle. Every prince she finds, however, seems to already be embroiled in his own quest or sticky situation, so Annie must first help with these various deeds and debacles.
I really enjoyed this story! Annie is a great character from start to finish and would make a good role model for the intended audience. She's kind, has a good sense of humor, does things for herself, is smart, and is still girly. Too often authors seem to think that the only way to make a strong female character is to make her this tough, hard-hearted warrior or tomboy. Annie manages to be a strong girl while still remaining feminine and harboring a crush on her body guard/companion.
Liam (the bodyguard) is also a strong and admirable character in his own right. This is appreciated, as another pitfall authors often fall into when making strong female characters is diminishing the male characters to accomplish a false strength-by-comparison. He's also a pretty likable guy. The other characters were less fleshed out and more caricatures, but they were appropriately humorous, likable, despicable, annoying, etc.
As a fairy tale retelling, The Wide-Awake Princess excels. The original elements of a number of fairy tales are woven together in a way that both pays homage to the original tales while also turning them on their heads in fun an inventive ways. Annie's ability to deflect and dampen magic is an ingenious twist that made for countless entertaining scenes and possibilities. Given how pervasive magic is in fantasy and fairy tale stories, these scenes felt especially fresh and humorous. For fans of humorous fractured fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, off-beat princesses, and light fantasy, The Wide-Awake Princess is a must have on the To Be Read list.