Okay, so I lied. I was planning on getting back online last night and finishing this review, but I've been fighting a cold for the past couple days, and the combination of my nice warm bed and portable DVD player with Harry Potter DVDs was just too inviting. But here it is:
In our culture, we seem to have an obsession with celebrity. Just go to the grocery store and look at the sheer number of magazines detailing the lives of Pop stars and Movie Stars and people who are famous for absolutely no reason (take Paris Hilton for example...what is she famous for? but I digress). Politicians, and their families, are also celebrities, and every four years, we watch the presidential campaign with rapt attention, learning every detail we can about their personal lives.
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover is the story of Sameera Righton (aka Sparrow, or Sammy), the adopted Pakistani daughter of a Republic presidential candidate. As her father's campaign heats up, Sameera joins him on the campaign trail. (She had been finishing up the school year in Belgium, where her father had previously been working on a diplomatic assignment.) When she arrives in California, she finds herself at the mercy of the press, and her father's campaign staff (whose job, it seems, is to "Americanize" her).
Besides giving Sameera a complete makeover, they have also created an online personality for her, complete with a blog (which sounds absolutely nothing like her), and a manga-esque avatar. What they don't know, is that she already has her own blog (though it is friends-only) where she has been writing much more though-provoking posts.
What I loved about this novel, though, was that Mitali Perkins does not only portray what life is like for a celebrity (like so many authors do); she portrays the making of a celebrity, the way the media depicts them and the power they have to represent themselves if they choose to. (Cultural studies buzz words like Interpretive Power and Representation keep popping into my head as I'm writing this*). I haven't seen these themes very much in YA lit, but they are important themes for teens to consider. I'm already looking forward to the sequel, First Daughter: White House Rules (January 2008).
And, just as a side note, I have to point out that Mrs. Graves is by far the coolest librarian I've seen in print in a long time!