Saturday, August 11, 2007

First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins

I recommend this book for: middle and high school girls

Okay, so after all the intensity of the newest Rowling and Meyer releases, something slightly lighter was just what I needed. Not that First Daughter doesn't tackle some serious issues - displaced persons, the traffic of young girls in other countries, religion, and real vs. perceived identity - but this is a fun book!

Sameera Righton, (Sparrow to her close friends and family) has always been a world traveler - attending boarding school in Brussels, and accompanying her adoptive parents all over the globe on various diplomatic assignments. But now she's headed back to the States to join her father's presidential campaign. Mom and Dad have hired a team of experts to help Sameera both help on the campaign and to avoid becoming a target for the ugliness that presidential campaigns always seem to create. Problems? Well, first of all, she's a major target for the media because of her race - she was born in Pakistan. Tara, her campaign staffer, has created a whole new image named Sammy: all American girl, complete with fabulous makeover, little to say on issues that actually matter to Sameera, and a custom blog that is little more than gushy endorsements for her father, America, and the fabulous stores that supplied her wardrobe. Sameera is not impressed, and neither are the 29 people who regularly participate in her real blog, where she talks about the things that matter to her. At first she gives in to Tara, but when people she cares about start getting stomped by the media, Sparrow springs into action to help her father win her way - and it is awesome.

Of course, the campaign is just a bit too clean for realism - despite asking Sameera to turn into a valley girl in front of the cameras, which is a pretty dirty trick, and the terribly twisted headlines that emerge, all of the ugliness seems to come from the media. Righton's opponent for the presidency is very ladylike (of course, the woman had to lose . . .), and there seem to be no hard feelings there. One thing Perkins did really well was depict the online culture that many teens participate in - checking one another's blogs and posting comments, how important that is to some people. Even if it wasn't totally believable, it was cool to read about young people getting involved in politics on their own ground - and hey, maybe we're getting there - Obama has a myspace, after all!

Also, there's a fantastic librarian character, a grey-haired lady who blogs along with Sameera and beats all the middle school boys at a small Ohio town's first ever Xbox championship. I hope I'm that cool when I'm an old librarian.
Oh, and if you'd care to check out what fictional Sameera is saying about the current election (I find it a bit strange, myself, but to each his own), check it out at

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