I just wrote a review of this book that I was really pleased with, and promptly lost it to a computer crash. Grr. Anyway, on to my re-written review.
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover is the first book in Mitali Perkins’ fun new series about Sameera, known as Sparrow to her friends, and her father’s run for the presidency. Sparrow, the teenage adopted Pakistani daughter of a diplomatic couple, has spent much of her life overseas, moving often from one diplomatic post from another. She seems to really love her life; she has friends all around her, including the twenty-nine people permitted to read her personal blog, full of her thoughts on all sorts of diverse topics: refugees, romance, well, the list goes on.
When her father’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination gears up, Sparrow leaves her school and her friends behind in Brussels to join her parents in the US. She is remarkably well-adjusted and adaptable, missing her friends but not at all resentful of anyone, just excited for her father and excited to return to the family farm in Ohio for a few weeks before the campaign really heats up in the fall (assuming he wins the nomination…Which, from the title of the series, I think we can safely assume he wins more than that).
When she returns, however, there are some changes to be made. Her father’s staff wants to make her over to be more “all-American,” which I guess is understandable, considering the anti-foreigner prejudices in America today, especially considering she’s Pakistani and her father is Republican, but it’s still pretty ridiculous: not only do they give her a physical makeover, but they change her name to “Sammy,” coach her to act giggly and ditzy, and set up a fake blog in her name that makes her look like an illiterate airhead. That is to say, nothing like the real Sameera “Sparrow” Righton. However, Sparrow’s got a secret weapon: her own blog, which shows her as she really is, and an outlet for getting the word out with her friend at the South Asian Republican Students’ Association, should she choose to release her personal writings and show America who she really is–and maybe help out her father’s campaign in the process.
As well as dealing with all of the pressure of living in the spotlight, her every move being watched to make or break her father’s campaign, Sparrow also has to deal with the same issues as any other teenage girl, issues with her friends, her family, her crush. She’s under a lot of pressure, but handles it remarkably well. So remarkably well, in fact, that she doesn’t always seem like an entirely real character. Characterization is not this book’s strong point, but it’s still a fun, absorbing read, and the characters weren’t distractingly flat, just not particularly well-developed. In fact, I was so absorbed in the story that I picked up the second book in the series, White House Rules, pretty much immediately after finishing this one! This beginning of a great series has all the elements of a fun, fluffy read, but it definitely tackles serious topics as well. First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover deals with everything from politics, celebrity, relationships, and prejudice, in the perfect blend of fun, fluff, and seriousness.