The Daughters, by Joanna Philbin

  • Title: The Daughters
  • Author: Joanna Philbin (could NOT find an author website. lame.)
  • Published: May, 2010
  • Pages: 288 pages (Hardcover)
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Standalone or series: First in a planned series of three. 
  • Why I read it: Saw a review in People magazine.
  • Source: Library.

Yes, this is by Regis Philbin’s daughter, so one can assume the author has experienced some of what her characters go through as all three girls in this series are daughters of mega-famous parents. The first book in the series mainly follows Lizzie Summers – picture her mom as a Christie Brinkley/Cindy Crawford/Heidi Klum type. Except Lizzie doesn’t look one teensiest tinyest bit like a super model. Tall and gangly in a not-thin way with frizzy red hair, Lizzie would rather have her crooked nose buried in The Great Gatsby than have anything to do with her mother’s world of fashion. But her mother seems absolutely oblivious to Lizzie’s looks and awkwardness and blithely drags her along to red carpet events where she is shunned repeatedly by the photographers. Any photos of her that do end up online are inevitably mocked by snarky celebrity bloggers. Then Lizzie starts to think that her mom is worse than oblivious, maybe she not only doesn’t understand her daughter in the least, but could she be using Lizzie to make herself look better in pictures?

That type of self-doubt, lack of communication and understanding with your parents, growing into your body, and teen angst are all very typical symptoms and drama of that stage in any girl’s life, but throw into that already-terrible mix being a daughter of a celebrity! It definitely intensifies things!

The teenage viewpoint is one of the things I think Philbin captured best in her debut novel. For example, Lizzie’s childhood crush, Todd, moved away to London for several years but now is back, more gorgeous than ever, and going to her high school! Of course she needs any excuse to be near him and her strategy is to get dibs on being his tour guide the first day of school.

While things start off like OMGsoawesome (hey he’s reading and loving the Great Gatsby too! and they both want to be writers!) of course rivals for his attention come up, and Lizzie’s own issues get in the way of their blossoming friendship. In the teenage world one drop-by your locker, one phone call, one facebook message makes a big difference, so only weeks after her heartfelt petition to be his tour guide Lizzie and he are avoiding each other. I loved this quote showing this type of transparent-to-us teenage drama, but that is SO. VERY. IMPORTANT to them:

“Lizzie Summers,” Mr Barlow barked. “You’re with Todd Piedmont. You’ll be doing Cupid and Psyche. The love myth.”

Somebody, somewhere giggled. Lizzie looked straight down, feeling her cheeks burn…

[After class ended] she sprinted out of the room, walked into Mr. Barlow’s office, and shut the door.

“Is there a problem, Miss. Summers?” he asked wryly, reading a few phone messages on his desk.

“You can’t put me with Todd!” she exclaimed.

He stifled a smile. “But just the other day you were begging me to be his tour guide,” he said.

“That was three weeks ago,” she said. “Everything’s different now. Everything.”

However, I thought the book overall was more fluffy than deep. There were so many angles that could have had more depth, such as when Lizzie takes steps to be more comfortable in front of the cameras. Her modeling sessions were described so vaguely to me, and in missing those details I missed the emotional connection with Lizzie and how she was changing.

Also central to teenage life is school and again, their exclusive private school got NO description, not what it looked like, what her homework was like, what the atmosphere was like there, and I was disappointed. Granted, New York City was depicted in greater detail and while these girls enjoy their wealth around the city and we get to know their penthouses and mansions pretty well, I still thought the school should get more attention.

Lastly, Lizzie gets into Trouble a few times with her parents and I didn’t see any real consequences. She was grounded for a little bit, but when a school dance comes up and Lizzie goes one of her friends says, “Hey, aren’t you grounded” and her response was a casual, “Oh yeah, they ended it early so I could go to this dance.” Although when she gets into Trouble at school I appreciated the way her teachers handled it – Lizzie’s mistake caused her to miss out on a big writing opportunity which was very important to her.

This first installment of a series about girls finding their own identities separate from their parents’ has some good moments, and poignant insight into teenage drama. I would recommend it for middle-school aged girls or as a potential beach or pool read as I didn’t feel it had the depth or emotional connection to stimulate more mature readers.

The next books will follow Lizzie’s two best friends who already had quite a bit of set-up in The Daughters: Carina, daughter of an overbearing billionaire-tycoon father, and Hudson whose mom is a  brittle, selfish chart topping pop icon.


3 Responses

  1. i love her books! theyre the best! cant wait till the book about hudson comes out

  2. I love reading her books.i wait for each and everyone to come out. I can’t wait to get the next two book.

  3. This book, to me, was a little disappointing. I ended up dropping it after finding something more interesting. One thing I didn’t especially like about it was the many instances when she’s doing some photo shoot and the author describes for the billionth time how free and accepted she feels in her own skin. Ok, we get it! She’s more confident as a person and less awkward thanks to this free-spirited photographer that indirectly dubbed her as the new face of beauty! Every time I came to a chapter that started out with “Lizzie skipped down the cobblestones on her way to some fancy studio where she would boost her confidence level and get some self esteem,” I winced at the thought of reading about yet another shooting session that communicated the same thoughts as those before it. I agree with Lusty Reader here as well, there were no consequences to Lizzie’s mindless actions and because of this, it was less relatable than it had the potential to be. To add, the whole thing about long-dark-and-hansome Todd is predictable, and only the parts about Lizzie thinking this about Ava when really it’s this offers a somewhat satisfying turn of events. Overall, I think the idea of this novel had potential but obviously didn’t pull through in the end. No offense to Ms. Philbin, but if you’re reading this, I’d find something else.

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