To my American readers: Happy almost Fourth of July! I hope you have tomorrow off.
To everyone else: Happy…July? I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying good books.
In honor of the holiday this year, let’s take a look at a few books that explore what it might be like to grow up among the rich and powerful in Washington, D.C.:
The President’s Daughter, by Ellen Emerson White
Originally published in 1984, Feiwel & Friends updated the entire Meghan Powers quartet—The President’s Daughter is followed by White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and Long May She Reign—with various tech details and brand names (Meg no longer loves Tab, sadly) and re-released them in 2008. I have the whole set and the books are just so pretty that I can’t resist petting them every time I walk by their shelf.
Meghan Powers is the daughter of a Massachusetts senator who decides to run for President…and wins, becoming the first female President of the United States. It’s about public lives versus private lives and about the heightened family tension that comes from that, it’s about the relationship between a daughter and her mother, about being proud of someone but also resenting them, about experiencing regular teenager stuff (romance and embarrassing moments and making new friends and figuring out who you are) while being in the public eye. It’s smart and funny and nuanced and thoughtful, the dialogue and narration both have excellent rhythm and are often understatedly hilarious. AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST BOOK.
If you’ve never picked these up, you’re in for such a huge treat.
When she was three, Sameera Righton’s parents adopted her from a Pakistani orphanage…and now her dad is running for president. In an effort to make her more “American”—and thus more attractive to voters—his staffers give her a makeover (that part is fun), rename her “Sammy” (less fun), and even ghostwrite a cheesy blog in her name (NOT FUN AT ALL). Like The President’s Daughter, it deals with that public/private divide; it’s about identity, cultural and ethnic and political and personal; it’s about honesty and finding your voice. I haven’t read the sequel, but SPOILER ALERT, her father wins the election.
Privileged-yet-disenfranchised girl foils presidential assassination attempt, becomes national hero, gets romanced by the son of the president. It’s funny and easygoing and light, which is pretty much everything we’ve come to love about (and expect from) any book bearing Meg Cabot’s name.
Love is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
I have been meaning to read this one for AGES, and perhaps the holiday weekend will be the perfect excuse? There’s a quarantine on the D.C. area due to a particularly nasty strain of flu, the daughter of two big-name scientists wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, and she starts investigating possible nefarious doings on the part of the government. This one has been showered with starred reviews and praise, features a diverse cast, deals with issues of economic class and race…how, exactly, have I not read it yet?
The Fixer, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My interest in Scandal waned some time ago—as much as I adore watching Joe Morton in ANYTHING, my desire to throw Fitz down eighteen flights of stairs kind of killed it for me—but I still find the general idea of fixers fascinating. Therefore, I’ve got my eye on this one, which is about a girl who gets pulled from her Montana home and enrolled in a D.C. private school by her Olivia Pope–ish sister. It’s due out next week.
Your turn—recommendations, please! I’d especially like some about growing up in the D.C. area, but about NOT being rich and powerful. Given that it’s an area with such a distinct wealth gap, I was surprised to find so few stories that appear to deal with poverty or even economic need. So, you tell me: Have I missed something essential?
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.