Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Frances is a Parisian dressmaker with big dreams, and when she is whisked away to work for a mysterious and wealthy client, it seems like those dreams might start coming true. Her new client is Prince Sebastian, who would rather be wearing stunning gowns and taking the fashion world by storm than finding a wife. As their unorthodox friendship blossoms, Frances and Sebastian bolster each other’s dreams, but it soon becomes apparent that Frances’s ambition can never grow beyond their arrangement if Sebastian's dream remains secret. Unable to continue this way, Frances leaves. In his despair, Sebastian’s careful precautions fail and his secret is outed. Frances has found a new position, but when she and Sebastian are reunited at her fashion show, they are reminded that they are braver together.
Jen Wang’s beautiful style brilliantly immerses the reader into this modern fairy tale in a way that says this story could not be told any other way. Her illustrations really bring Frances’s designs to life and wonderfully depict the emotions of her characters. The medium provides a different entry-point for the sensitive and complex topics of personal identity, sacrifices we make for ourselves and others, and what makes someone worthy of love. Especially appropriate for teens, The Prince and the Dressmaker is a valuable read for adults as well, as Wang’s strong and empathetic characters make a sometimes difficult topic more human. The story is strongest because neither character’s struggle and growth overtakes or overshadows the other's; each has important needs and goals. Jen Wang encourages us to ask if we can be braver and truer to ourselves when we’re honest together than when we’re hidden apart.