Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

Samantha Madison is an average, cool Washington, D.C., teen: She loves Gwen Stefani (who doesn't?), can draw like nobody's business, and enjoys being opposite to her sister's annoying ultra-social personality. When she ditches art class one day, however, she doesn't expect to be jumping on the back of a wannabe presidential assassin. Soon, the young hero is receiving worldwide acclaim for her bravery, having dinner with her family at the White House, and is even being named teen ambassador to the UN. As if this weren't enough, she and David, the president's son, strike up a friendship that everyone wants the dirt on, which starts to give her romantic "frisson" feelings. Unfortunately, Sam thinks her sister's boyfriend, Jack, is the true love of her life, and she makes a few wrong turns that could screw up what she's developing with David. Will she ever stop following what she knows and start following what she sees?

My thoughts: When I first saw the name “Meg Cabot” on the cover of All-American Girl, I had no idea that she was the author of The Princess Diaries—a story that I had seen on screen and never read in paperback.

Samantha Madison was the middle child stuck between her older sister’s effervescent popularity and her younger sister’s precocious intelligence. Now, I was never a middle child, but I do know how much the middle sucks, whether that middle is a line at the DMV or a seat on an airplane. Being the eldest in my family, I thought it would be interesting to see life through the eyes of a middle child.

The first thing I learned from being born in the middle, according to Sam’s story, was how much I would hate my big sister, Lucy. She was basically your “popular girl” nightmare—she was the one person in school who had all the friends, all the party invitations, and all the guys pawing at her feet. I guess I wouldn’t have minded the whole popularity so much if Lucy was just a little smart or, at least, appear to be smart. But, man, what a ditz!

My first impression of Samantha was that she was too political, which probably makes sense since the book was set in America’s capital. I also couldn’t figure out why Samantha refused to take art classes. Wouldn’t that be the natural recourse for aspiring artists to further develop their skills and practice the craft? Yeah, Samantha was already a great artist. But was she so great that she couldn’t stand to be better?

As I kept on reading, I felt like I was learning more and more about the problems of rich kids, and Samantha, in her own Beverly Hills way, was protesting against it. I guess she was kind of the black sheep of the bunch, which is probably the general feeling of the middle child. I must admit that throwing in the attempted assassination of the president did include some enticement as in a “what the hell is the president doing here?” kind of way. I liked Sam’s apathetic, no-nonsense attitude and thought it complimented the political theme in the book. I totally related to Sam’s preference to watch The Simpson’s instead of the presidential speech. And I thought it was funny how after saving the president’s life and had injured her arm, all she could think of was how mad her parents will be after they find out she skipped class.

Overall, I thought that Cabot rendered Sam as an impressionably naïve and, at times, delusional teen. Throughout the bulk of the story, Sam often fantasized about her sister’s boyfriend, Jack, soon realizing his deep devotion for her and sweeping her off her feet. She also was too quick to agree with whatever Jack said and did. I mean, my god, he wasn’t so great that he needed to control Sam’s mind. And that’s why I was glad she met David, the president’s son, because he freed her mind and her artistic soul. He taught her to think for herself and not be afraid to have opinions of her own. By the end, Sam becomes “patriotic” over an artist’s view of America through her window and fights for her entry in a national art contest, which was a little heart-warming.

The one thing that I didn’t like and found really annoying a lot of the time were all the lists like “The Top 10 reasons I hate sushi” or “The Top 10 reasons my sister’s boyfriend is right for me.” Really, what was the point of the lists? Did Cabot want to emphasize a neurotic side of Sam? Was she some kind of list freak?

Overall, this book was a combination of Clueless and Legally Blonde—two movies I watched and had no particular fondness for.

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