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The Daughters


The Daughters

The “new pretty” is a hot topic. It’s on the cover of the latest Teen Vogue magazineand the subject of the debut novel THE DAUGHTERS by Joanna Philbin. Who decides who is pretty and who isn’t? “Beauty is altogether in the eye of the beholder,” said Margaret Wolfe Hamilton in her 1878 novel MOLLY BAWN. Rookie young adult novelist Philbin (daughter of Regis and Joy Philbin) provokes the beauteous demon with her intriguing first book as she tells the story of a young girl who is about to learn what real beauty is. Her frizzy hair and crooked nose allow her dear journalist father to claim her, but “the most perfect woman in the world” --- supermodel Katia Summers --- is her mother. All her life Lizzie has had trouble living up to her mother’s beauty, even though she’s never been told outright that she had to do so.

Fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers looks in the mirror and sees buggy eyes and a nose like the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” until she is caught at a bad moment and speaks the truth to a reporter who puts her words and face on YouTube. The New York City modeling scene is turned upside down by her comments. A curious series of events occurs after Lizzie spouts what’s really on her mind. People who make their living on the superficial attractiveness of faces and clothing take another look at what pretty really is. When a successful photographer asks Lizzie to pose for a “real people” photo session, she breaks a few rules of being a good girl and goes ahead with it after the forging of her mother’s signature on the permission slip. When the photos are released in a magazine, sparks fly from a number of directions. Parents, paparazzi and a pompous designer named Martin Meloy go gaga for Lizzie in ways she never expected.

Philbin was born in Los Angeles and grew up in NYC, where her father hosts the wildly popular morning television program “Live with Regis and Kelly.” With this tidbit of information, readers of THE DAUGHTERS will easily grasp that she is basing the story on some of her own experiences growing up as the child of a celebrity in a town where who you are or what you look like means everything. It takes on the question of “what makes someone beautiful?” with the gusto and finesse of a writer with much more page history than Philbin can boast.

For a first novel, THE DAUGHTERS bears many moments of literary depth in spite of the pitfalls of writing about rich kids who want for nothing, including parental supervision. The kids are routinely without adult guidance in the book, which could be a statement on its own merits that celebrity children are raised by security guards, chauffeurs and house sitters. The kids attend an exclusive high school and pay for their sandwiches with hundred dollar bills, which could cause some readers to turn up their noses at this time of financial ping pong in America. But Philbin manages to keep the story’s message afloat in spite of the loose money surrounding the characters.

Young Lizzie Summers finds out that truth is more beautiful than anyone’s face or clothes. And lingering in the background are Lizzie’s best friends (also celebrity-born kids) Carina and Hudson dealing with their own parental unit issues. THE DAUGHTERS ends as Lizzie and Hudson take off to help Carina with her problem, which leads readers to believe that the next book in the trilogy will be about her.

This is a well-written and enjoyable book, containing believable dialogue and a good message about embracing who you are and not what the public thinks your destiny should be. It’s a clean read that adults can feel safe recommending and will undoubtedly put Philbin into the star rankings of her own making.

Reviewed by Joy Held on May 1, 2010

The Daughters
by Joanna Philbin

  • Publication Date: November 2, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Poppy
  • ISBN-10: 0316049018
  • ISBN-13: 9780316049016