It’s hard to discuss Meg Cabot without considering the feelings of teen me. I grew up with her writing, and it helped my reading transition from middle school to young adult with The Princess Diaries. From there, I took off devouring almost everything she’s written from series (1-800-Where-R-You) to the standalone (How To Be Popular) to her adult books (Queen of Babble). However, the one to truly capture my heart, and imagination was The Mediator series.
The Mediator series was concluded by the time I found it, so I had the opportunity to binge through it all. The emotional responses that some readers cultivated over the course of years was condensed into a few weeks for me, so you could understand the joy I felt after hearing about the newest addition to the series when it was announced: the seventh book.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The series is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Susannah “Suze” Simon, who is a mediator. This means she’s one of the few who can see, hear, and touch ghosts. She’s forced to move from her home in New York, to the sunny west coast of Carmel, California to live with her new step-dad and step-brothers (who she’s nicknamed – in her head – after the seven dwarves: Sleepy, Dopey and Doc). She hopes to use this as a fresh start since her mediating caused her to be a bit of an outcast at her old school. However, her new home has other plans.
- Her principal at her catholic school, Father Dominic, is also a mediator
- Regardless of locations, ghosts are everywhere and require help finishing unfinished business
- There is a hot 150 year old ghost guy, Jesse, haunting Suze’s room
By the end of the series, Suze got to make Jesse undead which made him a mediator as well, and they got to live happily ever after. The series was funny, involved an outcast who was hiding a part of herself from loved ones, there was a mystery surrounding what was keeping a ghost from moving on in each book, and it was trying to answer the question of what did it mean to be a mediator? It was clearly a book for teen me, and what made me love it so much was Suze.
She was a girl who loved fashion, make up etc and whose first course of action tended to be punching ghosts (and sometimes people) in the face. She was an improviser, and someone who wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion. She met one of her closest friends in the series after defending them against a bully with nothing but sass and threatening to break some fingers. I hated confrontation in high school but I became someone who wasn’t afraid through Suze who became a part of a long line of defender-of-the-weak characters that I admired. So, yes. I was excited for more of her, and I was worried that being a different person would affect my relationship with the character.
I read Proposal–the novella that takes place just before the seventh book–and will be focusing on it for now. It’s years after the events of the sixth book, Twilight, and it’s Valentine’s Day. Suze is about to graduate with an undergrad in Psychology, and she’s still dating Jesse de Silva who is attending a medical school four hours away. Rather than spending this day of romance, and chocolates together, she’s out dealing with a temperamental ghost in the cemetery, while Jesse does his rotations and interviewing for residencies. By the end of it, a proposal occurs, and has Suze engaged to Jesse. It’s 126 pages with 12 chapters whose headings were in Spanish. it was a choice likely made in an attempt to link it to Jesse’s hispanic heritage (he uses Spanish words in his speech like his term of endearment for Suze, querida, which means darling). It was nice seeing where Suze ended up, and that her goal of getting a master’s in counseling was something that made sense for her character. The proposal was cute but what was really great was the growth of diversity.
One thing I can say about the original series, as I re-read it, was it’s lack of diverse characters. The recurring ones were Jesse who is latino, and Cee Cee Webb who is an albino. Maria de Silva and Felix Diego made an appearance in the fourth book but are otherwise referred to throughout the series and never seen. Gina Augustin is Suze’s best friend from New York (described as black) who pays a visit in the third book, and is never referred to again afterwards. However, there’s a huge leap in diversity in this novella. A little more than half of the characters that show up are racially diverse and at least one is a named lesbian. It was great to note this growth when other parts of the series lacked it.
I loved this series as a teen but I’ve left my teen year a few years ago. Revisiting the series recently reminded me how it was very much intended for that teen audience with limited crossover appeal. They were very young, and trying to engage with it at 23 felt like trying to hold onto snowflakes. Proposal is supposed to be the adult phase of Suze’s life, and while she’s aged as a character, maturity in her depiction doesn’t seemed to have followed suit in Proposal. I don’t mean the character’s core attributes should change. She can still be funny, and be all the things that make her her, but we all change. We learn, and grow whether we want to or not. Suze in her early twenties feels almost indistinguishable from who she was in her teens. The only thing that’s changed are the things around her.
I’m really hoping that Remembrance addresses this but if not, this won’t be the kind of story that will age along with me. It’ll be left behind with a 15-year-old me who wanted to experience boldness through a ghost seeing girl.