Roundtable: Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White
Current Mood: grateful
Current Song: Wishful Thinking by Duncan Sheik
Jackie: Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White is the most delicious character driven book. It is also big like a brick. And worth every. single. page. You will want to hug Meg Powers close, even though there is no way she'd let you that close. It's been almost a year since I read it, and even now Meg is more alive to me than almost any character I can think of. She has had a rough road of it in the previous three books, and it is in this fourth installment where we get to watch her try to heal some of those scars - both the physical ones and the mental. She's a character wound so tight she vibrates, and when she lets loose, it's only because she's beginning to fray. In the time you spend with her you will see exactly what you see on the cover: a modern-day Mona Lisa, a mysterious character, cold at first glance and flawed, a girl who uses her intelligence as a shield to keep people away, but deep down is kind and humorous - you will see a masterpiece.
I've been happy with readergirlz picks, but none so happy as when Long May She Reign was chosen. I hope that in this selection readergirlz has inspired girls to pick up Meg's story and discover that a broken person can be fixed and that the easiest path is not necessarily the best path. That survival is more than just escaping immediate danger. That mistakes are part of the process. That no matter what you are up against - you can overcome it.
Little Willow: Today, two readergirlz divas (Lorie Ann Grover and Dia Calhoun) and two postergirlz (Jackie and me) have gathered together to discuss Long May She Reign, our book pick for November 2008. What was your overall impression of the book?
Lorie Ann Grover: My impression was first, "This is huge!" Then I began to read and I thought, "This is soooo well-written!"
Dia Calhoun: I was impressed by the detailed portrait -- a gripping psychological portrait -- of Meg's life and psyche. This is the kind of book you need to slow down for and read in big gulps -- great for fall. And it gave me an inside look at the chilling challenges faced by children of high-profile politicians.
Little Willow: Ellen Emerson White has written four books about Meg and the fictional First family: The President's Daughter, White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and Long May She Reign. Though I've been intending to read these books for quite a few years now, and though I always try to read series in order, I read Long May She Reign first since it was the readergirlz pick. I enjoyed it a great deal and thus plan to read its predecessors. Have any of you read the other books in this series?
Lorie Ann: I haven't yet, but I will as soon as I have leisure reading time. I really want to read Long Live the Queen.
Dia: I plan on reading all of them now because I enjoyed Long May She Reign so much.
Jackie: My library's copy of The President's Daughter just came in. I haven't read any of the previous three, and even though I ache to revist Meg (even in the past) I'm a little afraid to - I'm afraid that she won't live up to the Meg I know (read: am in love with) in Long May She Reign.
Little Willow: It sounds like we're all in the same boat there! The first three books came out in the 1980s. Long May She Reign was released in 2007 - 18 years after the third book. How do you think the previous books hold up? Did you appreciate the fact that LMSR is contemporary - using cell phones, iPods, et cetera - or did that bother you?
Lorie Ann: I can't wait to compare!
Little Willow: Which of Meg's traits did you find the most admirable?
Dia: Her absolute doggedness in the face of pain, peril, and never-ending scrutiny.
Lorie Ann: I'm thinking it's her resilience. Her power to stand alone and move forward in her life despite her horrific experience. Even before she gets answers from everyone.
Jackie: I admire that no matter how dark her world was, she was still able to find humor in life. Things that might not have been so funny if they weren't contrasted with such pain.
Little Willow: All good traits. I like how layered Meg was, and how White filled her life and her world with so many people and so many events, big and small. We all have multiple parts of our life - school, work, home, social lives (or lack thereof) - and White really gave Meg a full life. What was your favorite part of the book?
Dia: I loved it when Meg stood up for her friend who was being harassed by the press even though it was politically damaging and even physically damaging to her.
Lorie Ann: I loved seeing dorm life. I didn't have a life on campus outside of class. So just visiting her school was cool. And then seeing how it would be with Meg was really intriguing. I found I kept asking myself if I could have dealt with all her situations.
Jackie: There is so much that I remember loving - especially the Camp David scenes, but I also love that the author allows herself to go where the character needs to go, despite where we all want her to go (including romantically). EEW makes her confront every aspect of kidnapping and release - and how those scars relate to her everyday life. Actually that makes me wonder if the author has spent much time in therapy? I love that Meg, despite being broken, despite being famous, despite being extraordinary, is a completely normal girl in and exceptional situation.
Little Willow: I am very proud to be a registered voter. I encourage everyone who is of voting age to register and to vote! Are any of you actively involved in politics?
Lorie Ann: I only participate by trying to keep up-to-date via the radio, and then voting!
Jackie: Um, does donating my Twitter feed to get out the vote count?
Little Willow: Sure it does! I ran for class president twice, once in elementary school and once in high school. I lost both races because they were ultimately (sadly, stereotypically) based on popularity, as I knew they would be, but that didn't stop me from running - I wanted to be heard and make a difference. All throughout school, I was a member of student council as well as other school clubs and community organizations. Would you or have you ever run for an office of any kind?
Lorie Ann: I ran for 8th grade president. I picked the shortest boy as my running mate. :~) We made quite the pair. And we lost. BUT everyone that knew us voted for us. That counted a lot for me.
Jackie: I never had any interest. It wasn't real power, just silliness created to pad college applications. I was more into music and journalism, and I remember writing an (unflattering) article for the school newspaper about a disputed student council election. That's as close as I get.
Little Willow: I was pleased to read a story with a female President of the United States. What did you think about Meg's mother? And her father, the First Gentlemen? And her little brothers?
Lorie Ann: It was believable, I thought. Each character was equipped with skills and a personality fitted to the role carried in the story. And each acted accordingly with the trials they were presented. I think Meg's mom is an awesome president!
Dia: Amazing the horrible dilemma her mother faced as president: duty to her country or duty to her daughter. I can't even begin to comprehend this. I thought Meg's relationship with her mother was realistically portrayed in all its complexity. I'm so glad they come together at the end of the book.
Jackie: Each and every character around Meg had a backstory - a reason why they acted they way they did. EEW wasn't afraid of showing the repercussions of their humanity. It's staggering.
Little Willow: There have been multiple movies and stories about fictional First Daughters, including two books by our own Mitali Perkins, author and readergirlz diva. Why do you feel that Long May She Reign is a good pick for readergirlz?
Lorie Ann: I think it brings a world to our girlz that they haven't seen. Ellen brings such great character traits to the table, you leave empowered. I think it's awesome for rgz to get a peek at the college life they might experience. Oh, so many reasons! And it's a great one to curl up with by the fire and read and read. (Because it's our longest yet! Ha!)
Dia: I think many teen girls idolize celebrities and this book gives a good picture of the true realities of fame. Also, the book shows heroism of spirit can be found in the way you choose to live your life from moment to moment. I also think this would be a great book for mother/daughter book clubs, because the relationship between Meg and her mother the president is fascinating.
Little Willow: In closing . . . VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
Lorie Ann: I'm voting! Woot!
Dia: Me, too, via mail-in ballot. I miss the ritual of actually going to the polls. I think something is lost.
Jackie: It's very strange not to walk into booths and have my ballot counted right before my very eyes. But yes, my vote will DEFINITELY be counted.
More food for thought:
Read the November 2008 issue of readergirlz
Go through the back issues of readergirlz
Bookmark the readergirlz website
Check out previous roundtable book discussions at Bildungsroman