Saturday, January 8, 2011

52in52 #1 - Long May She Reign

Reviews? I have to actually write something about what I read and think things out and have an opinion and all that? Ah well, I suppose that justifies it's inclusion in a homeschool blog...

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White is the fourth book in a series about Meg, the teenage daughter of the first female president of the United States. The first three books were published in the 80's, and the fourth in 2007. "Updated" versions of the other three were released around the same thing - I couldn't tell you if there were any changes beyond the inclusion of modern technology (complete with awkward references to rating all the girls on the whole Face Book).

In the third book, Long Live The Queen, the protagonist is kidnapped by terrorists, suffering serious physical and emotional damage. The fourth book further addresses her recovery, physical and emotional (White seems to enjoy writing PTSD), and her first semester away at college.

When I was discussing the book with LemurDa, he commented that it must have been rushed to press before Hillary Clinton was eliminated from the primaries, and I can't help thinking there's likely some truth to that. I think it probably could have been cut by a third (of 707 pages), and still been effective. There were some parts where I wasn't really sure what message the author was trying to get across. Is she horribly selfish for not finding out all the nitty gritty details of her dormmate's lives like Good Friends Are Supposed To? Or are they typical media-obsessed jerks who can't comprehend that a high profile person under tremendous stress and in constant severe pain might, perhaps, be a little less than capable of being their most intimate best friend? Or is the point supposed to be that she's hiding her pain so well, in her political-savvy manner, that they don't realize that she has more to worry about than her RA's secret past (I don't consider that a spoiler, as there's rather heavyhanded foreshadowing in that direction) and joining them for dinner in the cafeteria?

The interaction between the dormies didn't really strike me as authentic (at the same time as they poke fun at movies for portraying dorms inaccurately), but that could be because I was kind of a loser in an a weird dorm (the "quiet dorm", which was full of people who were either antisocial or forced into it by their parents), so maybe I don't have the right perspective on that.

Her distress over considering offering sex to her kidnapper in exchange for safety strikes me as perhaps a bit overblown, given that she doesn't seem at all conservative or adverse to casual sex for any reason beyond political expedient. This isn't to say that someone couldn't be totally into casual sex and still be upset at being coerced into it it, but it still seems odd as a focal point of extreme angst given her overall attitude.

Homosexuality seems almost shoved into the book as a way of saying "Look, I'm modern and liberal and not written in the 80's!". GLBT content does not bother me. I wish there was more of it in YA and mainstream lit... included in a non-token, non-issue manner. But here, completely out of the blue from the other books, Meg claims that she is "totally straight... so far, anyways", her best friend starts making remarks that could be interpreted as heteroflexible, she has a dormmate who is ever-so-prickly about being a lesbian (about which Eminently Liberal And Ever Political Meg doesn't bat an eyelash), her mother hires a gay man for some top position, and even the president's sexuality is called into question, if jokingly. I cracked up at that point, as I'd commented to LemurDa shortly before that I expected they were going to out the president next.

But really, a lot of this is nitpicking. It wasn't an unenjoyable book - I enjoy Meg's sense of humor, and the relationship between members of the first family is fun to watch. The view into life in the White House and under Secret Service protection is fun (though how accurate, I couldn't say). And the series is oddly timely, with the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords.

And I eagerly await the 5th book where Meg and Preston finally get together. She is going to write that book, right? It's totally been foreshadowed since the first book.

Next book (perhaps. I may end up starting another before finishing it): April Fool's Day by Bryce Courtenay. I'm still reading Five Children and It with the kids, and it looks like that will extend through most of this upcoming week. We'll probably start The Boxcar Children after that.

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