Ms. Perkins sent me an ARC of her new book, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, and I read it while I was in West Texas. To get a feel for the book, take a bit of first daughter Sameera Righton’s favorite movie, Roman Holiday and mix with a touch of the 1972 Robert Redford flick, The Candidate. It was fun and light and just what I needed while visiting my dad in the hospital. Reading Mitali’s book kept things from getting too grim. And for that I thank her.
However, the book is not just for those looking for escapism; with elections coming up in 2008, First Daughter is YA chicklit with a mission —to educate us about what really goes on behind the scenes in a presidential election and to make us think outside our boxes about what a president’s family ought to look like. In the book, Sparrow (Sameera Righton) is the daughter of the Republican nominee for president of the United States, and she’s also adopted from Pakistan. According to some campaign gurus and journalists, Sparrow doesn’t look like the all-American girl; she’s too international, a little too intelligent, not giggly and empty-headed enough. Dad’s campaign managers are out to fix those perceived problems and give Sparrow, newly christened Sammy, a complete makeover.
The rest of the story follows the summer and fall before the election and Sameera’s journey to understand herself and her role as a celebrity and as a real American girl. A lot of Sameera’s thinking involves blogging; she starts out with a myspace site that’s limited to her circle of 29 buddies. Then the campaign gives her a ghost-written blog, SammySez.com, that makes her sound as if she’s a totally different person from the Sameera Righton she’s always been. Sameera must navigate the treacherous waters of a presidential campaign to find her own voice and her own persona.
I liked the blogocentric plot and writing, and I liked the insights into Pakistani American culture. Sameera comes from a culturally Christan family, but she and her father in particular are still trying to figure out exactly what they believe about God and religion. Over the course of the book Sameera makes new friends, some of whom are Muslim. The blending and the tensions between cultures are entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking.
First Daughter looks to be the beginning of a series of stories about Sameera and her adventures in politics and growing up. Brown Bear Daughter read the book and promises to write her review soon.
Here’s Sameera’s blog with entertaining news and information about the children and and families of the real 2008 US presidential candidates and fictional information about Sameera herself.