All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

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Punk girl, dressed all in black, selling portraits of celebrities(whom she had drawn herself) at school. That's Samantha Madison for you in the story, All-American Girl, by Meg Cabot. After getting caught for the celebrity portrait scandal, Sam's parents send, or rather, force her to take art classes with a lady named Susan Boone. Ever since then, Sam has felt that her life's taken a huge turn, and not in a good way either. Nothing ever goes her way-- she's the middle child, stuck in between her perfect, beautiful big sister, Lucy(whose boyfriend she's "in love" with) and her child-genius little sister, Rebecca. However, when she meets the president's son, David, her perspective on everything around her begins to shift. This young adults novel certainly was fun to read, and I particularly enjoyed how it shows the ways in which Sam grows in character as a result of everything that's happened, with the intelligent themes of: actually seeing instead of just knowing, and being true to yourself.


To begin with, Sam begins to really open her eyes, thanks to Susan Boone. Before, she was a stubborn girl who thought no one could interfere with what she thought. As she begins to take advice from Susan Boone, a new light, full of realization, sheds upon her. The first several steps Sam took to this was when she made her first drawing in art class of a bowl of fruits they were expected to sketch. At first, she'd thought her drawing was the best, with the perfectly round, bulbous fruits including some extra pineapples that weren't in the real bowl. Susan Boone, however, criticizes it, saying that it wasn't the bowl of fruit they were expected to draw-- the fruits weren't that perfect, and where did those extra pineapples come from anyway? Sam is told that she must learn how to draw what she truly sees and not just stick to what she thinks and knows. At first, it seemed like complete bogus to her, after all, what happened to the creativity? "But suddenly, I saw. I saw the purple shadow beneath the egg. I saw the pink light from the sun outside the window. I even saw the little yellow moon of light reflected on the top of the egg." This is what Sam finally begins to see as she makes her second sketch of a supposedly pure white egg, having learned her lesson the first time. She could now create a white egg with a wide array of colors. As she says, "I had begun, finally, to see."

Another big development Sam makes in character is her realizing how she truly feels. She had been certain that her one and only true soul mate was her sister's boyfriend, Jack. The two shared a similar interest in art and had the same stubborn temperament. Both liked the 'punk' style as well. With their similarities, Sam assumed that they would make ideal partners. What she doesn't know is that Jack wasn't the one who always made her happy. She just wanted to believe that Jack was her true love, meanwhile the one who has really been supporting her and making her smile this whole time was David. With her, it's always been Jack this and Jack that, but as she finds herself spending more time with David, she begins to really see the contrast between the two boys. What she thought she knew and liked about Jack wasn't very accurate; in fact, she found that their minds and tastes weren't very alike at all! As she got to know David, however, she began to like him more and more for who he was, like how down-to-earth he was, and his artistic knowledge. When she finally got around to thinking about what her true feelings were, it struck her that, "Much as I loved Jack, I had to admit, my heart didn't start beating faster when I saw him. Not like it did with David. And I never had trouble meeting Jack's gaze-- even though his pale blue eyes were every bit as beautiful as David's green ones. And while I blushed around Jack, well, the truth is, I'm a redhead; I blush around everybody. But the person I blush around most is David." It's a good thing she came to realize this; she shouldn't push herself to love someone who she doesn't really love.

Overall, this book is one that can teach teens a thing or two about life. Sam's situations proved just how these two themes would apply to the real world. Not to just take things as they know it, but to actually take the time to see, and to not assume something is true because you want to believe it. This story truly is an inspiration to young adults everywhere; I know that I now understand that not everything is as I think it is. I have to take the time if I want to actually see how it is. And while I'm at that, I also should stay true to myself, no matter how much I want to believe in something that probably wouldn't happen anyway.





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