Thursday, April 14, 2011

The President's Daughter

I first read 'The President's Daughter' back in junior high, and absolutely fell in love with Meg and her mother, the first woman to be elected President of the United States. Growing up and reading these books during the staunch conservative Reagan years, and having a president like Katherine Powers as a possibility in my mind was amazingly encouraging, and when I grew up, I wanted to BE her. And Meg.  And sometimes I wanted to be myself, playing the character of Meg in the movie venison of the book, where Sigourney Weaver would play the President, Harrison Ford would play my dad, and Michael J. Fox would play my boyfriend, Josh... but I digress.

(I used to - and still do - picture Harrison and Sigourney from 'Working Girl', and Michael J. Fox circa 'Family Ties' and 'Back to the Future', not as they currently are)

And now that I have completely dated myself, I should also mention that the sequel that immediately came out, 'White House Autumn' was also a favorite, although not one I have returned to reread nearly as much as 'The President's Daughter.' I've probably read 'The President's Daughter' somewhere around 30-40 times - and I tend to read it at least once a year even today. Other than 'Pride and Prejudice,' it remains the ONLY book from my early years that I continue to read with regularity.

In 1989, I was in high school when the third book came out, 'Long Live the Queen.' It was much, much darker than the first two books, and it threw me. I only read it once, and the outrage I felt that the bad buys were never captured and made to pay for the crimes they committed against Meg is still fresh today. She had been kidnapped and tortured physically and mentally, and she manages to free herself (Girl Power!), and we deserved to see them pay for what they had done. And they weren't caught. Still, Meg was confident that they would be, so I assumed they would be, as well.

For the next twenty years, I didn't exactly frequent the teen fiction sections of the book store, so I was unaware until recently that a 4th book was written in 2007. And that the first three had been 'updated' (goodbye, Meg's obsession with drinking Tab and watching Hill Street Blues, welcome to emails and lattes). So I checked them all out from the library, and I've spent the better part of the week reading the newly updated first three and then plunging into the 720 page 4th book, Long May She Reign.

And, well, I still don't know how I feel about it. In many ways, it was great to return to the world of Meg, the President, her brothers and father, Preston, and her friends Beth and Josh. Ellen Emerson White has a true gift for writing - her style is so very unique, that it manages to make you believe you really are the characters you are reading in a way that few authors can, and it sticks with you for days, weeks, months, hell, DECADES, after you first read them. The sarcastic humor I've always loved was there, the political discussions are there, and we get a bit of romance and even going into the steamier side of romance (side note: is this typical in teen fiction these days? Would the Sweet Valley High characters be sexually active??and a second mental side note that I need to carefully monitor what exactly my boys start reading!). So it was great to return to a bunch of old friends, and see what they were doing.

The President's Daughter  White House Autumn (President's Daughter)  
Long Live the Queen (President's Daughter)Long May She Reign (President's Daughter)

(and how cool are these covers? I love the subtle nods to Wyeth, Vermeer, Whistler, and Da Vinci)

Except... it didn't quite work for me. * SPOILERS FOLLOW* One of my biggest pet peeves from the 3rd book is that Meg never had her day in court to see her kidnappers brought to justice. When I saw the size of the 4th book - a chunky 720 pages - I did a little happy dance because I knew this meant we would FINALLY - twenty years later - get Meg the justice she deserves. I mean, in a 720 page novel, the Secret Service would find these b*stards and we would have closure. Right??  Was this too much to ask for?

Alas, it was. As I kept reading page after page of Meg having nightmares, not eating, hating her mother, having nightmares, not eating, hating her mother, having nightmares, not eating, hating her mother ... I started to fear it wasn't coming. And it didn't. 720 pages, and the kidnappers are still out there.
I did a google search late last night (after finishing the book) to see if there was a 5th out there, or at least plans for a 5th book. But the author;s web page hasn't been updated in four years. Grrrr... I'm getting too damn old to wait another 20 years for the 5th book. Please, Ms. White, do us a favor, make the next book a bit shorter (say, only dedicate 100 pages to Meg having nightmares, not eating, and hating her mother) and try and get this book out sometime before 2020. Much thanks in advance.

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