I read the first two books (The President’s Daughter and White House Autumn) in this series by Ellen Emerson White when I was in high school. I recently discovered that they had been reissued with fun new covers (that reference famous works of art) and that there were two more books in the series that I had never read. The third book, Long Live the Queen, was published in 1989 initially. I graduated from high school and started college that year and had moved on from young adult fiction. (Or more accurately I was at the age where I thought I was beyond YA fiction but wasn’t old enough to realize good books are good books no matter the age they are “meant” for.) The last book in the series, Long May She Reign, wasn’t written until 2007. It’s worth noting that the books have obviously been updated for modern times. The characters refer to the Internet or texting and some political events are mentioned that happened after the 1980’s. For the most part this is seamless. In my opinion, I don’t think it was totally necessary but I imagine it was to make the books more appealing to young adults today.
The President’s Daughter of the title is Meg Powers, whose mother runs for and becomes the first woman president of the US in the first book. The books span the time from when her mother is a Senator campaigning for President (book one) to two years later when Meg’s mother has survived an assassination attempt and Meg herself has survived a brutal kidnapping (book three and four). Woven into the plot are a lot of fun details about family life in the White House. The relationship between Meg and her mother is the main theme of the books. Meg has to first figure out how to be her own person separate from the daughter of a beautiful, charismatic, talented woman who is also the leader of the country. Then later she has to come to terms with her feelings about her mother’s no negotiation policy with terrorists and what that meant during her own kidnapping.
I enjoyed reading all four books. I think the first two are the best. The third and fourth book painstakingly detail Meg’s recovery, which is slow and difficult. She makes two steps forward physically only to take one backwards. Her emotions are raw and she struggles with the same issues over and over again. This is all likely very realistic. Yet, not all that fun to read. After a bit I got annoyed with Meg instead of feeling sympathetic towards her.
I was struck when reading these books that although I do believe that good books are good books and that young adult fiction can be read and enjoyed by adults, that it’s somewhat different reading a book as an adult rather than a young adult. The romance that I found so wonderful when I was in high school seemed cute but not that interesting now. I found myself identifying more with Meg’s mother than Meg. There is a lot of witty banter in these books and zingy one-liners. I remember thinking that Meg, her best friend Beth, and the family’s closest friend Preston were amazingly cool. They still are cool but I found the dialogue much more unrealistic this time around. It’s fun to read but no one I know manages to talk like that all the time. Similarly, in the fourth book, Meg and her new boyfriend Jack have a lot of flirtatious conversations heavy with sexual innuendo. I haven’t been in college in a long time, but no one I knew ever talked like that. Not that they didn’t talk about sex but that they weren’t very witty about it.
The author has some very obvious political leanings. She is clearly a Democrat and a liberal. That’s fine and it didn’t bother me but these aren’t the books to read if you are a thin-skinned conservative Republican.
Bottom-line, I loved these books in high school. I probably would have also loved the third and fourth books had I read them then. Now, I liked them quite a bit although I saw them as more flawed. Still, they are fun books and I’m glad they were reissued.