Published: February 4th, 2014
When Audrey Met Alice
By: Rebecca Behrens
First daughter Audrey Rhodes can't wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute - citing security breach, and squashing Audrey's chances for making any new friends. What good is being "safe and secure" if you can't have any fun?
Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt's hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey tons of ideas for having fun.....and more problems than she can handle.
This book is a half and half, between modern times and a hundred years ago. It is a cultural snapshot of what it means to be the First Daughter, to the United States President. For Audrey Rhodes, ever since her Mom became President, her life has sucked. She was forced to leave behind all her friends, her school and her extended family to move to D.C. and into the White House. And now that she's there, Audrey doesn't fit in at her new school, where being the First Daughter just makes her different from her classmates, difficult to hang out with and somewhat unapproachable. Her parents don't have time for her anymore with their official duties and Audrey feels beyond lonely and alone. After a failed party attempt, Audrey finds Alice Roosevelt's diary hidden beneath a floorboard. Suddenly, there is someone who understands the harsh public scrutiny, expectations and stifling nature of being the President's daughter. Alice's on the edge, adventurous style of living inspires Audrey to make some choices (maybe not the best kind) to spice up her life, and rebel against all the new rules she's under. But when her decisions hurt others, her parents especially, can Audrey turn things around? WWAD (What Would Alice Do)?
I did feel really badly for Audrey. Having that much attention on your daily life, and having so many imposed rules would definitely be difficult to adjust to. Also, she's alone at school (except for a friend named Quint, who she may like as more than just a friend) and Audrey feels like her parents are ignoring her, other than to be a showpiece for them at events to boost approval ratings. Alice's "journal" entries (all fabricated by Behrens, though inspired heavily by real events and much research) were very interesting to read about. Alice led a very scandalous life, supporting gay marriage before it was socially acceptable, smoking (unladylike), visiting with foreign dignitaries, betting at the race track, carrying a flask and speaking her mind. There was never a dull moment with Alice Roosevelt around. That said, the book gives a nice contrast of how it takes some time for Alice and Audrey both to grow up, see the perspectives of those around them and be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Throughout the book, the characters grow side by side, becoming more mature people. But I felt like the secondary characters were extremely one-dimensional and only served to move the plot along. The feel of this novel is very middle grade, and I feel like it would really appeal to middle-schoolers, who are still deciding their identities. Audrey is a strong protagonist, who makes mistakes like the rest of us - a great role model for young girls. I feel like because of my age though, I had a difficult time connecting to a protagonist who was fairly naive. I'd recommend it to younger, middle school aged readers. It could open some very interesting discussions about the changes in the focus of the media, celebrity privacy, and behavioral consequences.
VERDICT: 3/5 Stars
*I received this book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, on NetGalley. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book was published on February 4th, 2014.*
I’ve always been fascinated by first daughters. As a kid, I remember seeing old photographs of little Caroline Kennedy dancing in the Oval Office and messily playing with rubber cement on a White House carpet. I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to grow up in the White House. It seems like such a serious, powerful place—not one where you can have tea parties or build a tree house or play hide-and-seek with your siblings. But people really live there, and from the second I made that connection, I was obsessed with the idea of kids in the White House.
Before I began researching When Audrey Met Alice, I assumed most First Daughters would have to be pretty well behaved. It surprised me when I first started reading about Alice Roosevelt’s crazy exploits. If there was a rule, Alice would break it: from getting speed tickets while driving her runabout around town to smuggling contraband (often whiskey) in her elbow gloves. She got in trouble for letting photographers catch her placing bets at the racetrack and for dancing on the roof at a party. Alice was the original wild child, but there are other presidential daughters who got into trouble: Amy Carter for bring a book to an important state dinner; Susan Ford for ditching her Secret Service detail for a joy ride; Luci Baines Johnson for getting B grades in school; Jenna and Barbara Bush for getting underage-drinking tickets. And Chelsea Clinton recently revealed that she sneaked into the President Clinton’s inauguration wearing a too-short skirt, which she hid from Hillary under a long coat, until it was too late to change. It’s fascinating to figure out the ways in which First Daughters have misbehaved.
With two First Daughters at 1600 Pennsylvania right now, it’s interesting to think about how the Internet age affects their life in DC. For the most part, the media has respected the “unofficial agreement” to not report on the girls unless it’s part of official White House business (i.e., they can be photographed at a holiday event, but not on their way to school). A few stories have sneaked out, such as Malia attending a concert with her Secret Service agents incognito. Around the time I started writing When Audrey Met Alice, a photo of Sasha ran in one of the tabloid newspapers. It showed her in a rainbow-colored bathing suit, crouched on a beach in Spain during a trip with her mom. Sasha was drawing something in the sand, and looked like any other kid at the beach—except for the massive crowd of gawkers and paparazzi cordoned off behind her. That photo became my emotional shortcut while writing Audrey’s and Alice’s stories—because it illustrated that for all of the wonderful opportunities that come with being a First Daughter, there is a lot of scrutiny, and maybe a little loneliness. I hope When Audrey Met Alice makes readers think about how living in the White House might be challenging—but that it shows the fun of being a First Daughter, too!