(The final cover art has not yet been released, and the Web site for this series has not yet gone live.)
The Daughters, the first novel from Joanna Philbin (daughter of Regis), follows fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers and her two best friends. Lizzie is the only daughter of Katia Summers, the most beautiful woman in the world. Lizzie takes after her a father, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for The New York Times. Her two best friends, Carina Jurgensen, whose father is a multimedia magnate and philanthropist, and Hudson Jones, daughter of pop icon Holla Jones, are famous by proxy.
The novel starts rather awkwardly. There is a lot of pseudo name dropping, and I found myself thinking of these characters and their parents as real people. I tried to figure out what real celebrities they were based on. Philbin's writing was also awkward at first as she quickly introduces a slew of characters. Lizzie uses the cringe-worthy metaphor that her friends her like a Brita filter.
Thankfully, the novel soon ventures out of its awkward beginnings and takes shape. The heart of the story is the friendship of these three girls. They're about to start ninth grade, and their lives have shifted. These are the cute toddlers from the pages of celebrity tabloids grown up. They used to be photographed with their parents, but now the paparazzi don't want Lizzie because she has the frizzy red hair of her father rather than her mother's legendary looks. Unlike many tales of the super rich written for teens, this novel steers clear from most of the name dropping and label naming.
It was a joy to see Lizzie embark on her journey of self-discovery. There were certainly some predictable plot points, but the characters saved this novel from veering into cliches. There are morals to the story, but they arrive from an organic place and despite feeling familiar, they are refreshing and new.
This book fills a much-needed niche in young adult literature. The story takes place in the world of celebrities and designer labels, but it has heart, three-dimensional characters and a friendship that feels real. It's part fantasy, part reality, and a surprisingly enchanting combination of both. The characters are fourteen, and the romance plateaus with kissing. There's enough substance for mature teens (and interested adult readers), but the themes are mild enough that this series is perfectly appropriate for upper elementary readers.
Warning to those who don't like cliffhangers: this book ends with a resolution of one storyline, but it clearly sets up book two by blowing the door open for what is sure to be the focus of book two. I'm guessing Carina narrates book two (out November 2, 2010) and Hudson takes over in book three.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Publication date: May 1, 2010 (pre-order it now from Amazon.com)
Source: ARC via Around the World Tours
Book 2 in The Daughters series, The Daughters Break the Rules, will be out November 2, 2010.
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