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Dystopian Challenge Blog

First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover: Mitali Perkins

There's something fascinating about the children of famous people, isn't there? Especially the children of U.S. Presidents. I think that the crux of the fascination is that we all wonder what it would be like to have access to all of that glamour and attention, without having to actually be the responsible party. At least I do. So I jumped at the chance when Mitali Perkins offered ARCs of her upcoming young adult novel, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover.

The first of a planned series, Extreme American Makeover tells the story of Sameera Righton, adopted daughter of the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. 16-year-old Sameera, called Sparrow by her family and friends, was adopted from Pakistan when she was three, and has lived the life of a diplomat's daughter ever since. Extreme American Makeover finds Sparrow leaving her school in Europe to join her parents on the campaign trail.

Before she knows what's happening, the campaign manager has had people give Sparrow a glamorous makeover, with new clothes and makeup, and even a new name, Sammy. The goal is portray this dark-skinned daughter from Pakistan as the All-American Girl. Sparrow goes along with this because the campaign manager convinces her that it's the right thing to do to help her dad. She even lets them start a fake blog in her name, full of product endorsements and fluff, despite the fact that she maintains her own much more substantive, but private, blog. Sparrow spends the rest of the summer and fall dancing in and out of the limelight, and gradually deciding what to do about the dichotomy between her public and private images.

Sparrow is a wonderful character. She's strong-willed and loyal to her friends (who include an older woman who is a librarian!), and refreshingly level-headed, even in the media spotlight. She makes mistakes, of course, but she tries to do the right thing. She writes well, and from the heart. She struggles a bit with her cultural identity, and the way that people who don't know her perceive her, but her loving family have given her stability and a sense of self-worth. I kind of wished that she was real by the end of the book, because I would have liked to meet her. At least I can visit her real-world blog, in which she discusses the 2008 presidential race, with emphasis on potential first kids.

Although Sameera is sixteen, and does have some interest in boys, this book reads relatively young, and I think that kids ages 12 and up, especially girls, will enjoy it. It also feels very modern, with lots of reference to blogs and cell phones and instant messages. The book does touch upon larger issues - Sparrow's mother is an activist, with particular concern for Internally Displaced People. And Sparrow's point of view provides an inside look into the campaign trail and its discomforts. Assuming a win by Mr. Righton, we can alI look forward to reading about Sameera's inside perspective on the White House soon.

Book: First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover
Author: Mitali Perkins. Mitali blogs at The Fire Escape. Also, don't miss Sparrow's Blog. Yes, it's a blog by a fictional character. But once you read the book, you'll understand why a real blog for Sameera/Sparrow makes so much sense. Sparrow will also be going on a blog tour in June. Check back for details.
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Original Publication Date: June 14, 2007
Pages: 192
Age Range: 12 and up
Source of Book: ARC from the author
Other Blog Reviews: None so far, but send me the link if you write one, and I'll add it.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.