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Chelsea Olinger, her parents, and their fat dog Lucy have driven over a thousand miles from Bloomington, Illinois to settle in an unnamed southwestern community. Only through descriptions of the climate and the Spanish names of other high schools does the author communicate the location. This contemporary novel covers a two-year time span and pinpoints time by referring to the various fads and musicians popular during Chelsea's sophomore and junior years.

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Literary Qualities

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249

Peck's strength lies in his ability to create strong individual characters. By choosing Chelsea as the first-person narrator of the novel, he presents an honest storyteller, and a perfect one for easy reader identification. Having the entire story told through a flashback gives Chelsea the opportunity not only to relay experiences, but to understand the important effects they have on future events.

Peck uses musicians to convey period of the events, and this device works well: "Was it the Michael Jackson year or the Prince year? No, it was the Madonna year." Since Peck mentions well-known people who are still producing records, he does not set his book in two specific years, but lets the reader set the time frame. Peck also uses popular words to represent each year. During Chelsea's sophomore year "awesome" was the big word. "Sleaze" was popular during her junior year.

He also employs the universal "they" to represent the other students and the power of peer pressure: "they said," "everyone said," "everybody said," "we all said," and "people said." Since the entire narrative is Chelsea's, Peck does not use flowery phrases or many poetic devices. Instead he gives her words that a teen-age girl would use and expressions, lively dialogue, and descriptions that fit her personality. They are most effective: "I tell you what I thought: that all my life I'd been watching on a black-and white set. And now I had a small part in the production, and it was in full color."

Social Sensitivity

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 192

The issue of drinking and driving is never discussed outright, only the consequences are mentioned. When a drunken Craig drives fast and recklessly from the Christmas dance, Chelsea and Pod follow and find Chelsea's dog dead, but still warm, beside the road from a hit-and-run driver. Chelsea never admits it was Craig, she did not actually see his car hit the dog, but the thought creeps unbidden into her mind.

When Craig is brain-damaged and paralyzed from drinking and driving the night of Senior Summer, Chelsea is spurred into action to make sure that other students get help instead of heading out of control like Craig. Although she does not have much effect, and her mother resigns her counseling job anyway, Chelsea understands cause and effect from bad choices.

Permissively reared children, like Ashley and Craig, have a problem with heroes. They do not look up to people. They are in control and they only look down on their parents and teachers as servants. Peck says, "The permissively reared child is the hero." Such children may be governed only by their selfish desires, which can result in disaster for themselves and others.

For Further Reference

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 244

Anton, Denise A. "Princess Ashley." School Library Journal (August 1987): 97. Anton calls the book a "sensitive and insightful view of teenage life that may cause readers to ponder their own search for identity."

Chevalier, Tracy, ed. Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. New York: St. James, 1989: 768-769. Hilary S. Crew describes Peck's writing as sensitive and understanding.

Commire, Anne, ed. Something About the Author. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 1980: 242-244. An extensive interview with Peck is presented.

——. ed. Something About the Author. Vol. 55. Detroit: Gale, 1989: 126-138. The sense of the writer's mission is expounded in this comprehensive interview.

Holtze, Sally Holmes, ed. Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1983: 238-240. This short article is an autobiographical sketch of Richard Peck.

Kirkpatrick, D. L., ed. Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. New York: St. Martin's, 1983: 610-611. Margaret F. Maxwell believes Peck's honesty in dealing with teenage problems makes him "one of the best writers of the genre."

Metzger, Linda, ed. Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale, 1937: 366-370. The article contains a short biography and an interview.

"Princess Ashley." Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 1987): 723-724. The reviewer calls Peck's book "another winner."

Sutherland, Zena. "Princess Ashley." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (June 1987): 193. Sutherland finds Pod's dialogue adds a refreshing humor.

Sutton, Roger. "A Conversation With Richard Peck." School Library Journal (June 1990): 36-40. Peck is interviewed about receiving the Author Achievement Award.

Wilson, Evie. "Princess Ashley." Voice of Youth Advocates (June 1987): 82. Wilson calls the novel one of Peck's best.

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