Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So... one of the highlights of the weekend was Mitali Perkin's book launch/bhangra party at DCPL. (See her page for the incriminating photos!)

In preperation for the party, I read the book that was being launched, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover.

Tangent: I was excited for this book because when I was a kid, I really liked The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White. Did you ever read that one? It's awesome. And then, at ALA this weekend, I found out that there were sequels!!! Who knew?! AND! There's a 4th one coming out soon, Long May She Reign. I got that ARC this weekend, which is how I found out there were more.

Anyway, back to First Daughter. Sameera is Pakistani by birth and was adopted by a human rights crusader and diplomat. She goes to boarding school in Brussels where she writes for the school paper and is the coxswain on the crew team. When school gets out, she goes back to the US, where were father is campaigning for President.

She's poked and prodded and made over to be much more glamorous than she is. A consultant that's an expert in teen marketing writes a blog for her that makes her sound like a complete ditz. She's told to giggle more and to insert more "uh"s into her conversation. She's sick of her nickname, Sparrow, and wants to start going by Sameera-- it sounds more grown up. She's told that her new name is Sammy, because that sounds more American. Right.

At first, Sameera goes along with the changes. She wants to be a journalist and sees herself less as becoming a celebrity and more as going undercover as one. In the meantime, she has her myfriends page, which is closed to her intergalactic circle of 29 friends who remind her who she really is.

As the campaign gets closer, Sameera can't take it anymore. She starts dressing in her salwar kameez to sneak out into DC and hangout with the South Asian Republican club at George Washington. She buys a burka to better hide herself. Eventually, she can't reconcile her two selves and decides to break free and just be who she is. The political consultants will just have to deal with it.

Sameera is such a love-able character. I was slightly mystified at how her mother just let the consultants do what they want, but as the campaign wore on, I got it. I liked how Sameera takes charge and I liked her true voice--she was bright and interesting but still sounded like the sixteen year old she was supposed to be. Perkins perfectly captures the way the press hounds young and hott celebrities and really takes a stand at giving political kids a bit of space. I liked the fact that Sameera's dad was the Republican, not the Democratic, front runner. Also, when was the last time you saw crew as a main characters major sport? And coxswain? Nice touch. I hope she continues to do crew in the next book-- you can see them rowing every morning on the Potomac. I can see Sameera standing there, shouting at them as they go under the 14th Street Bridge. And there could be a great scene with some Secret Agent falling into the icky water. Just a suggestion.

My main disappointment is that when Sameera sneaks out to buy her clothes, Perkins is ambiguous about what neighborhood she's in. I like it when authors know corners of my city I don't that I can then explore. Oh well. It's a small thing.

Overall, this book is pretty fun, but it still touches on some bigger issues without being bogged down in teenage or political angst. I'm looking forward to the next one!

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