December 30, 2008

Winter YA Roundup, Part II: Ellen Emerson White Extravaganza

Earlier this year, I returned from the 2008 Kidlitosphere conference with a copy of Ellen Emerson White's Long May She Reign--which I promptly read and reviewed, thus starting on that annoying road of having read the last book in a series first. Instead of going backward--which, I admit, was tempting--I was a good little reader and started from the beginning. Overall, I found the idea for this series to be rather topical, what with a brand-new president preparing to take office. However, it's not just the fly-on-the-wall glimpse into life as a White House Resident that I enjoyed--though admittedly, I ate that up--it was the fact that this is a story of a regular family faced with a succession of extraordinary circumstances.

The first book in the series is The President's Daughter, and, where the final book dealt with both the aftermath of trauma and the possibility of new beginnings, this one starts before all the dramatic events take place. The challenge to Meg Powers in this book is dealing with her mother's family-shaking decision to run for President--and her surprising, whirlwind victory. Going from the daughter of a senator--privileged, successful, and content--to being the daughter of the President of the United States, under the spotlight of the paparazzi, followed everywhere by the Secret Service--is an enormous change for Meg and her brothers. This book will really make readers think about what it would be like to be in that kind of limelight.

The vicarious thrill of reading about it, though, is balanced by the realistic portrayal of the stresses and difficulties, and the effects on a family of having a political figure as a parent. And when something happens to that parent--as in the second book, White House Autumn--the family's trauma is shared by that of an entire nation. Although the second book was a good follow-up to the first in terms of character development and interpersonal relationships, it was in some ways the least "active" in terms of the main character--the traumatic event in question happens to Meg's mother, the President, and although it definitely affects Meg, the story isn't quite as focused on her this time.

Not so in the third volume, Long Live the Queen. This time, we truly get to know Meg under the most harrowing of circumstances [WARNING: tiny spoilers, but nothing you won't find in the jacket blurb]--her frighteningly well-planned-out kidnapping by a terrorist group. This book is half a survival story, in which Meg's wit and resourcefulness as a character, and her stubborn spirit, enable her to survive her ordeal; and half a story of recovery and healing. I liked that the author doesn't confine the wrap-up to a mere chapter or two--it's very clear that this is NOT about giving readers a vicarious sensationalistic chill. However, it's definitely the climactic volume in the story arc of this series.

No comments: