Retro Friday: Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

It seems fitting to review an Ellen Emerson White title for Retro Friday because it was Angie who first introduced me to this author. Life Without Friends is a sequel to Friends for Life. I believe both titles are out of print and sadly, I wasn’t able to get a used copy of Friends for Life. I don’t think it matters though because I enjoyed reading Life Without Friends even if I haven’t read its companion novel. I hope those titles aren’t too confusing!

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

A lot of bad things happened to Beverly last year. Now she’s living a life without friends. It’s a lot easier that way. Then Derek comes into her life, just by chance. Bit by bit, Beverly opens up to Derek, and begins to trust him. She can tell him anything. Or almost anything.

There’s just last year standing between Beverly and Derek — the one thing he said he couldn’t forgive. Maybe it will ruin everything if she talks about it. And maybe it will ruin everything if she doesn’t.

Beverly has been through so much – she dated a guy who was involved in a lot of drugs and was part of the wrong crowd in school. To cope with the horror of the past year, Beverly has decided that it’s better for her to avoid everyone and keep to herself. Her father requires her to attend weekly psychiatrist sessions but even during those private moments, Beverly is afraid to open up. Poor Beverly! I really felt bad for her at the start of the novel. The title of the book – Life Without Friends – seemed really appropriate for her because she didn’t have any friends that she could turn to. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her. Here’s a fairly spoiler-free snippet from early on:

“Alone again, Beverly relaxed somewhat. It was hard to believe that life could get any worse than this. More than once lately, she had thought about killing herself, erasing the fact that she had ever existed. It would be so easy, so—except that she wouldn’t. She didn’t respect people who committed suicide.”

It’s a good thing Derek unexpectedly appears in Beverly’s life and he’s determined to be friends with her. I think Derek is really a great guy – he’s thoughtful, friendly and does his best to make Beverly laugh. A tentative kind of relationship forms between these two. Derek is hesitant because he’s worried that he’s not good enough for Beverly, while Beverly doesn’t want Derek to know the horrible things that happened in her school. This book reminded me a bit of the Love Stories series published by Bantam Books and I devoured those when I was a teen. I think the romance in this novel is really sweet but Life Without Friends is more than just a love story. It’s about Beverly coming to terms with everything bad that happened in her life – from her mother passing away five years before to her getting involved with the worst kind of guy. I also enjoyed watching Beverly interact with the people in her life – her father, her stepmother, her younger brother and even her psychiatrist. I found the conversations during her weekly psych sessions funny. Sometimes, it’s nice to read something like this and remember a time when we didn’t have cellphones or the internet. Beverly reminded me so much of Meg from the same author’s President’s Daughter series – both of them intelligent young women experiencing difficult times in their lives. I kind of wish they got to meet in the last Long May She Reign. I’m hoping that Ellen Emerson White will release another book soon, I’d love to check it out if that happens.

Other reviews:
Angieville
See Michelle Read

Romance is a Wonderful Thing by Ellen Emerson White

Romance is a Wonderful Thing by Ellen Emerson White was one of my Want Books picks last December. I wanted to read something of EEW’s that was light and fun because all of her other books are heart-wrenching (but really good). I also wanted to read and review this one in time for Valentine’s Day this year because it’s an old school teenage romance. It’s the day after Valentine’s over here but I believe it’s still February 14th in other parts of the world. Hmm maybe I should feature love stories for the whole week?

Here’s the summary of the book from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Why would Trish Masters fall for a total jerk?

That’s what all her friends are trying to figure out. Blonde and beautiful Trish is a great tennis player, an honors student, and popular too. She could probably catch any guy she wanted. So why pick Colin McNamara, the class clown? He’s good-looking, but a rotten student who spends afternoons in detention.

With the whole school gossiping about the hot new romance, Trish’s image is beginning to tarnish. But she knows something about Colin that nobody else knows. And if she can just convince him to show the rest of the world what he’s really like, she knows they’d both be happy.

I can’t get over how old school that cover is! What can I say, it goes with the old school story. This is a contemporary YA novel written by Ellen Emerson White while she was in college in the 80s. It’s funny that Colin is described as a class clown, maybe that’s what a bad boy is in the 80s? I’m not exactly sure. In any case, Trish is a popular and wholesome kind of girl – she’s smart and athletic while Colin never takes his classes seriously. He constantly argues with teachers and earns a daily spot in detention. To top it off, the whole school knows that he got his ex-girlfriend pregnant. Not too great of an image, right? But Trish realizes that there’s something more to Colin than meets the eye when she bumps into him at the local library and he insists on walking her home. That chance encounter marks the start of their romance.

This is such a sweet teenage love story. I would’ve probably fallen in love with this if I read it back in high school together with the Bantam Books Love Stories series. It has a very different tone from the other Ellen Emerson White novels that I’ve read. It was fun to see Trish and Colin slowly learn to be comfortable around each other. Goodness knows, we’ve all experienced a lot of awkward moments during our own teenage years. What’s great about these two is they bring out the best in each other through encouragement and support. Both of them help the other person deal with insecurities. It isn’t as obvious in Trish’s case but Colin goes through some pretty big changes in his school life – both academic and extra-curricular – while the two of them are dating. I also enjoyed seeing how involved their parents are in their lives. Colin meets Trish’s parents every time he picks her up for their dates and Trish also got to hang out with Colin’s parents. They also talk about their love life with their parents, which doesn’t generally happen in YA novels nowadays, right? This is an out of print book that I ordered from Better World Books. If you can manage to get an inexpensive copy then I recommend that you grab it and read this.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Angieville – Thanks again for recommending Ellen Emerson White’s novels, Angie 🙂

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White

Long May She Reign is the final installment in Ellen Emerson White’s the President’s Daughter series. This review might contain spoilers for the first three books so if you’re planning to read them and if you don’t want to know anything, it might be a good idea to skip this. You can check out my review of the earlier three books by clicking the images below.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Meg Powers is the daughter of the President of the United States. She’s about to enter her first year of college. She’s living through the worst year of her life. In June, Meg was kidnapped by terrorists – brutalized, starved, and left for dead. She was shackled in a deserted mine shaft and had to smash the bones in her own hand to escape.Meg Powers survived the unthinkable, the stuff of nightmares. Her terrorist captor is still at large. But still, she must live each day. Ahead of her is the grueling physical therapy to heal her broken body, and the challenge of leaving the safety of the White House for her freshman year at college.But harder still than the physical and social challenges ahead are her shattered sense of self and her family. Will she ever forgive her mother, the President, for her “can not, have not, and will not negotiate with terrorists” stance – even when it came to her own daughter? And more difficult still, can Meg forgive herself for having the strength, the intelligence, and the wit to survive?

I’m glad I found out about this series (through Angie and Michelle) when all four books are already out. I can’t imagine having to wait for Long May She Reign for several years. At first, I had a hard time getting into Ellen Emerson White’s writing since I have no clue about American politics and that’s a huge aspect of her President’s Daughter novels. Meg eventually won me over as I read the rest of the books in the series. Meg is such an intelligent character with a unique sense of humor and I have a feeling that I would be intimidated by her if I happen to meet her in person. One thing I can say about Ellen Emerson White is that she isn’t afraid for her characters to get hurt. Her writing reminds of Megan Whalen Turner and Elizabeth E. Wein in that sense (if you haven’t read their books, you should go pick them up!) I admit that their books aren’t easy to read because of all the suffering their characters go through but you know that they’re tough and they can eventually overcome any challenges thrown their way. I’m talking about the kind of writing that stays with you days after you finish the book and makes you want to read the rest of the author’s work.

Long May She Reign starts from where the last book left off – Meg is trying to cope with the effects of the physical and emotional trauma that she experienced. She’s not doing a good job because she mostly just sulks in her room. Although after what happened, she deserves to be as grouchy as she wants. However, she can’t take how her attitude is affecting her family so she heads off to Williams, hoping that things will get better while she’s at college. As if being the US President’s daughter doesn’t make it hard enough for Meg to fit in, she’s constantly in pain because of her injuries. Things look up as Meg reluctantly starts to make friends with her Junior Advisor, Susan, and some of the other people in her dorm. She also starts dating Jack, a California playboy who’s surprisingly vulnerable when it comes to Meg. I didn’t like Jack at first because I had my heart set on Preston, the First Gentleman’s press secretary and the family’s close friend, but I ended up liking Jack and Meg’s relationship. Both of them are far from perfect and they make mistakes when it comes to dealing with the other person but I like that Jack is Meg’s equal. Plus, Preston had some wonderful scenes in this book so it’s all good. There’s something about Ellen Emerson White’s writing that makes me want to read more of her stuff. Seriously, I’d like to see a President’s Daughter book that will jump forward in time, maybe if/when Meg and Beth decide to go to law school together. For now, I have to patiently wait for my copies of Romance is a Wonderful Thing and Life Without Friends to get here. Oh and I need to find a copy of Friends for Life somewhere because I’m really curious about Susan.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Angieville
See Michelle Read
The YA YA YAs

Here’s an article about EEW’s writing over at The Savvy Gal. Check out this interview, where EEW says “It’s too early to say, but I suspect there will be more than one sequel and they will not be all from Meg’s point of view” about more books about the Powers family. Yay! I hope there’s more of Preston in those sequels!

Long Live the Queen by Ellen Emerson White

Long Live the Queen by Ellen Emerson White is the third book in the President’s Daughter series. The first two are The President’s Daughter and White House Autumn. I got the entire set by special order from Fully Booked and this one was worth P460. I think that the books can be read as stand alones although it’s a lot better if they’re read in order. The premise of this one is kind of spoilery so if you don’t want to know anything about the book, better skip this review.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Being the President’s daughter isn’t easy, but Meg’s getting used to it. She’s even starting to have a life again — okay, not a normal life, but things are beginning to fall into a routine.Then it happens — machine guns blast, a van screeches to a halt, and masked men grab Meg and take her away. Meg doesn’t understand what the terrorists want. She doesn’t understand how her security was breached. But she does understand one thing — they have no intention of letting her live — and she has no intention of dying.

It took me a while to pick this up because based on the premise, it seemed like something that isn’t easy to read. I was even warned that it has some trauma and that I should be prepared for it. Ellen Emerson White is an amazing writer but I feel like I have to be in a certain mood before I could read her books. Just when Meg feels like she’s starting to get used to being the president’s daughter, she’s forcibly taken by terrorists and she doesn’t even understand why. My heart was pounding the entire time I was reading Meg’s ordeal. Even though I already knew terrible things would occur, I was still scared because there’s no way that I could predict what would happen next. As a reader, I felt like I was with Meg every step of the way. It all felt very real. The storytelling is vivid and no detail is spared – all of Meg’s feelings and thoughts were documented. I actually wanted to jump forward in the novel to take a peek at how things will develop but it’s a good thing I waited. I admire Meg for being as strong as she was and she even keeps her unique brand of humor wherever she was.

One of the highlights of the novel (the entire series, in fact) is the distinct and realistic dynamics of the Powers family. You know they all love each other but they don’t really know how to act when they’re all together and as a result, most of their dealings are awkward. I don’t think I’ve read any other YA series that focuses on the character’s family as much as this one. Even the love story took a backseat. Also prominent in this installment is Beth Shulman, Meg’s best friend from back home. It’s a struggle for both Beth and the entire Powers family to reach out and help Meg as she continually pushes people away. I read this series because it’s been repeatedly recommended by both Angie and Michelle. I second (third?) the recommendation because this series is a different kind of YA but be prepared because the books are compelling but they’re not easy to read. I think the mark of a well-written novel is that it can make you care for the characters to the point that you don’t want anything bad to happen to them (or when bad things happen, you want them to overcome those situations). I have a feeling Meg’s recovery in Long May She Reign, the last installment in the President’s Daughter series, is going to be difficult but I’m hoping that good things will happen to her. She really deserves to be happy. I kind of wish she’d end up with a certain young and fashionable press secretary.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
See Michelle Read
Book Harbinger

Retro Friday: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Since I got my copy of The Road Home from Angie herself, I thought it would be appropriate to do a Retro Friday post about it. Angie is a huge fan of Ellen Emerson White and it’s because of her and Michelle that I picked up the President’s Daughter series. I’m not done with that series but I decided to read this one because I couldn’t wait to find out the goodness inside.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips went to Vietnam as a nurse, to heal and give comfort, and maybe to find answers. The war had torn her family apart and she wanted to know why. But there were no answers for her in Vietnam – only more questions.

When Rebecca returns to the U.S., her war still isn’t over. For only when she’s home is she able to confront the horrific realities she experienced during her tour of duty. To piece her life back together, Rebecca travels across the country in search of hope, of forgiveness… of the way home.

I don’t usually go for books set during war-time. More so for this one because it’s about the Vietnam war, a time in history which I know nothing about. However, if a book comes highly recommended by someone I trust, I can’t help but give it a try. Plus, Angie sent a copy already so the least I could do was read the book, right? 🙂 The Road Home has two sections: the first part deals with Rebecca working as a nurse in Vietnam and the second part is about her coming back home to the States. I thought The Road Home was a standalone novel but looking at Ellen Emerson White’s website, it looks like she wrote a series called The Echo Company which focuses on a certain soldier’s experiences in Vietnam and Rebecca comes into the picture in the latter books. This is probably why when I was reading The Road Home, I felt like I came into the middle of the series.

As the story starts, Rebecca is working in an American hospital in Vietnam. She’s a Radcliffe-educated nurse straight out of college and she signed up mainly because of issues with her family. It sort of felt like things already happened to Rebecca and the book is dealing with the aftereffects of those events but I didn’t really mind. Rebecca’s helicopter was shot down in the jungle and she was MIA for a couple of days until she meets a squad of American soldiers and one of them, Michael, becomes a close friend. Based on hints throughout the novel, Rebecca used to be a cheerful and lively girl and everything changed when she was lost in the jungle. Mostly she runs on autopilot as she tries to save lives when she doesn’t even understand the point of it all. During her remaining time in Vietnam, we see her struggle to connect with other people: the Chief Nurse Major Doyle, Michael and even her mother and father through letters.

The Road Home is more than just Rebecca’s story of coming back from Vietnam. It’s about coming to terms with everything that she encountered while she was there and trying to understand how she’s going to go on living when so many people died. Rebecca lost touch with herself when she went off to join the Army and this novel is about her finding herself again. The characters are believable and real – from their experiences during the war to how lost they were after they came back. It’s an understatement that it’s difficult to overcome the horrors of war. Your heart will break several times over while you’re reading this one but I think it’s worth reading. The last few chapters are my favorite part of the novel, when Rebecca decides to go on a road trip. Plus the ending? *sigh* It’s perfect for the story. So again, I thank Angie for encouraging me to read a book that I normally wouldn’t have picked up. I never thought I’d find comfort in a novel about war. I’m baffled that the book is out of print because it deserves to be read by more people.

Other reviews from Goodreads:
Angie
Michelle
Holly

White House Autumn by Ellen Emerson White

White House Autumn is the second installment in Ellen Emerson White’s President’s Daughter series. I got the entire set by special order from Fully Booked and this one was worth P460. I read the first one a couple of days ago and even though I had a lukewarm reaction to that one, I had a feeling that things will pick up in the next books.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson’s website:

Reading Seventeen was one thing – appearing in it was quite another. After ten months of living in the White House, Meg knew she should be used to it, but she wasn’t. Beyond the usual worries of senior year, college applications and her first serious boyfriend, Meg had to live up to what was expected from the president’s daughter. She had to watch her sense of humor and the way she dressed and spoke – and try to have a normal relationship with her boyfriend Josh despite constant publicity and secret service agents who followed her everywhere. Then, just when everything seemed to difficult, a shocking event made life in the White House even worse. Her mother may have chosen to be the first woman president, but there seemed to be few choices for the “President’s Daughter.”

I forgot to mention in my review of the first book that I was actually fascinated with the revisions that they had to make to modernize this series. It was first written in the 80s when the internet wasn’t such a big thing and there weren’t any cellphones either. The new editions now have all that in them. It must have been such hard work to update all the details and I appreciate that the publishers and the author went through all of that. Also, I’m glad they decided to have the series reprinted because it’s pretty hard to look for out of print books. I’m happy to announce that I had a better reaction to White House Autumn than The President’s Daughter. There’s a lot less politics in this one than the first book. I feel bad that I didn’t really understand US politics in the first one. Maybe I should follow the US elections more closely when it rolls around again. My dad worked in politics for most of his life (although he preferred to be in the background) so I know how crazy life can get when you’re involved in that field.

I think what makes this series stand out from other contemporary YA books out there is that it focuses on the dynamics of the first family. In most YA novels, the love story takes precedence over everything else. Not so with the President’s Daughter series! In my review of the first book, I mentioned that I was hoping for more action in the book. I got what I wanted in White House Autumn. Only a couple of chapters in, something big happens that shapes the rest of the novel. In this one, Meg is scared for her family and she tries to mask her fear by being angry. She lashes out at her boyfriend and her friends. I love how her best friend, Beth Shulman, doesn’t let Meg get away with it. Beth is a true friend in the sense that she’s there when Meg needs her the most but she’s totally honest when it comes to pointing out Meg’s flaws.

I can understand why Meg chooses to stay angry instead of breaking down and crying. All of us rely on our parents and it feels devastating when you find out that they’re vulnerable as well. You go through life, secure in the knowledge that your parents will always be there for you and then *Wham, Bam!* something happens that makes you rethink that situation. It is beyond difficult when you realize that and I believe we all have different ways of dealing with it. It is doubly hard for Meg and her family because they’re not a touchy-feely, solemn kind of family. They mostly show their affection through relentless teasing and that’s where most of the humor in the series comes from. So even if the book is pretty serious as a whole, it still has its light moments. White House Autumn is an emotional, family oriented novel about a teenage girl, trying her best to cope with the dangers of having the US president as a mother. Now I understand why Angie and Michelle have been encouraging me to read this series.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
See Michelle Read
Book Harbinger
Bookshelves of Doom
One Reader’s Trash is Another Reader’s Treasure

The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White

I’ve been looking forward to getting this book ever since I featured it in my Want Books meme. Oh gosh, was it only just last month that I posted about these books? It feels longer! I was so excited to get this one by special order from Fully Booked for P460. It’s not that cheap, I know. But not bad for a trade paperback of a book that isn’t locally available. Both Michelle and Angie have been recommending these books for the longest time and I’m glad I finally got copies.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Sixteen-year-old Meghan Powers likes her life just the way it is. She likes living in Massachusetts. She likes her school. And she has plenty of friends. But all that is about to change, because Meg’s mother, one of the most prestigious senators in the country, is running for President. And she’s going to win. Now Meg and her whole family have moved to Washington, D.C. to live in their new house – the White House. Meg and her brother are being escorted to school by Secret Service agents, and reporters won’t leave them alone. Meg’s tired of being in the national spotlight. But how can she tell her mother she hates being the President’s daughter?

I know the premise isn’t that new – there have been several stories about daughters of US presidents before, although probably more in movies than in novels. This one is different because the presidential parent is a woman. I found Meg very believable as a character. She’s smart, snarky, has a great sense of humor and tries to act like her mom running for president is no biggie. As if things aren’t hard enough for her, she looks exactly like her mom. Although it’s obvious based on the title that her mom will win the position, the first half of the book deals with the campaign trail and how a well-respected senator fought to become the first female president of the United States. I admit that a lot of the political talk went way over my head. You all know that I live in the Philippines and we have a different political system from the US. Even though the political events and processes were explained in detail, I was still a bit lost. Also, we’ve had two women presidents over here so it’s that not big of a deal compared to the US.

The book focuses on Meg and her family and how they adjust their lives according to her mother’s profession. I liked Meg’s family – her mom, dad and her brothers Steven and Neal. It’s understandable that the dynamics of the family changes according to Mrs. Powers’ political career. I found the characters endearing, each of them vulnerable in their own way. Since I’m a fan of humor, I kept noticing how it’s natural for the entire family (except for Neal because he’s only six) to constantly joke around. Even though I liked the characters, I had a pretty lukewarm reaction to the book as a whole. Aside from having problems understanding the US political situation being depicted, I also kept waiting for something big to happen and nothing turned up. I don’t know why but I was expecting a climactic event. I’m still planning to read the other books in the series because I already have them. I have a feeling that they’ll be more exciting than this one based on the book summaries.

Shout out to Michelle and Angie, I feel bad that I didn’t fall in love with this one because I know how much you both love the series. 😦

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
See Michelle Read
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Bookshelves of Doom