Long May She Reign

September 27, 2008
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Long May She Reign, by Ellen Emerson White, is a contemporary novel about a fictional American president’s daughter, Meg Powers. In it, Meg deals with the psychological, political, physical, and social challenges that face her when she returns home after being kidnapped by terrorists. Her knee was severely damaged by her main captor and she completely shattered various bones in her hand in order to escape. As would be expected, she deals with post traumatic stress and anxieties about something else happening. She also deals with guilt about causing so many problems for everyone around her, and for having had an almost amicable relationship with her main captor at times. Her family suffered from both the stress during the thirteen days she was missing and her mother’s “cannot, have not, and will not negotiate with terrorists” stance both in her official statements as President of the United States, and whenever she heard about even the smallest attempts at back channel negotiations.

At the same time, Meg is eighteen and going off to college for the first time. She deals with doormates, classmates, friends, and the reporters who form her 24 hour “death watch.” Long May She Reign isn’t really a problem novel, though with its premise it could easily become one. Meg has angst and possibly depression, but she’s also snarky and resilient. She denies that she’s a “hero” - though President Powers notes that all of the other heroes she honors in a portion of her State of the Union speech do the same – and more or less keeps going even when it’s difficult. Her family and friends have issues of their own, but those issues are not all encompassing and they are able to help Meg.

Long May She Reign presents an interesting view on the human side of the way that the current political processes and media work. Meg frequently watches CNN and other 24 hour cable news networks, and comments on feeling out of touch when she moves away from the White House, with its constant supply of ever newspaper imaginable and close circuit feeds. Yet she also deals with the consequences of these news outlets viewing and analyzing every move that people make and every word said. Her so called “death watch” – reporters who follow her every time she goes out, in case she gets kidnapped again, shot, or otherwise injured, who only do so to a very few people like the president and the pope – takes pictures and videos of every time she trips or talks to a boy or does anything else that’s remotely different from her usual routine. At eighteen her skills for dealing with reporters could already rival many seasoned politicians already.

She doesn’t, however, always use those skills. She is a teenager, despite one with important parents, and she occasionally loses her temper and gives the media some interesting footage. Meg is a human and realistic character, with a good balance of strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, the book itself manages to achieve a good balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary, and the unfortunate and fortunate.





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