Had Meg Cabot let the whimsical The Princess Diaries progress chronologically after its 2000 debut, HRH Mia Thermopolis might now be partying at a college kegger. Thankfully, in the series' seventh volume, Mia is only a New York high school sophomore, gamely struggling through puberty while balancing her obligations as Genovian royalty. Also returning is Princess' best character: Mia's unrepentant drinking 'n' smoking Grandmère, who blackmails the financially strapped Mia into starring in a musical retelling of Genovia's history called Braid! after Mia inadvertently bankrupts her student government. Despite the excessive pop-culture name-dropping (Ellen and Portia, Will and Jada, Jay-Z and Beyoncé), Cabot adroitly interweaves comic absurdity (Mia's letters to Carl Jung) with weightier topics (Mia's pal Lilly copes with her parents' marital woes) in a topsy-turvy mix that recalls adolescence itself.