I was genuinely shocked at how dark Mia Kerick’s The Princess of Baker Street was. For some reason, with such a light and happy title, I had genuinely expected there to be a lot less as far as the miserable situations went. And yet the story focuses largely around two characters, young Eric whose mother has run out on him and left the boy to fend for himself as far as food, cleaning, and electricity are concerned and Joey, who is certain that she is a girl who’s been born into a boy’s body, the wrong body, and is bullied quite often at school as a result. And the truth is, barring brief moments, there isn’t a lot of happy in this book. I personally don’t know how to feel about that. Despite this fact, however, I did really enjoy the read. I found it was thoroughly engaging despite being quite dejecting.
When the group of kids living on Baker Street were young, Joey was their ringleader. With the best stories and the greatest imagination, Joey was always able to come up with the best games to play. And in every single one of them, Joey was always the Princess and Eric her prince. Especially when playing The Little Mermaid. But as the kids grow older and the clear differences in Joey’s disposition from other boys, they grow apart and soon friendship turns to bullying. Eric, afraid of being singled out, shies away from helping the kid who had once been his greatest friend.
The Princess of Baker Street is, at its heart, a story about two children in incredibly difficult and emotionally draining situations and how they navigate the world after. Narrated by Eric himself, the novel tells his story of neglect and abandonment via his flighty and young mother who leaves him alone in the house with a small amount of money to feed himself. She’s so flighty and neglectful, in fact, that Eric’s clothes don’t get washed and the electricity goes out multiple times during her absence. The novel also follows Eric’s understanding of and relationship with Joey, an incredibly smart student whose assigned male gender at birth does not match the gender she truly is and unfortunately the world around her has made her suffer for it.
Themes of bullying, neglect, and secret friendships fill the book, leaving the reader feeling really sad for the main characters. Though wonderfully written and quite engaging, the book is a difficult read and not one that I would suggest for most. Despite a happy end, I found the bulk of the novel to be quite sad and while you can empathize with the characters, you can’t help wishing for a different life experience for the both of them. I definitely appreciated the book and the perspective it offered. The characters truly felt like real people and that was the most impressive thing this book had going for it. But it is an incredibly sad story at times so I don’t think The Princess of Baker Street would be a great book for everyone. I can definitely see it existing as a trigger for some and that’s important to acknowledge.
Trigger Warning for: attempted suicide, depression, bullying, and neglect.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.