Donna Gephart's debut novel, As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother's Running For President, is a hilarously funny ( as in "snickersnort funny") story about an almost-teen who is having to deal with being the daughter of the Governor of state of Florida...her mother...and the fact that her mother is now campaigning for the nomination vote for President of the United States.
Vanessa Rothrock would like nothing more than to be just another ordinary student at Lawndale Academy. Instead, she is the only student there with a personal bodyguard, who won't even let her go to the Girls Restroom by herself. Not that he goes inside the restroom, of course, but he stands guard outside and refuses to let any other girl in until Vanessa comes out. That doesn't make for the greatest of popularity. As if that wasn't bad enough, she is followed through the day by news reporters and flash cameras, taking her picture at the most awkward and inopportune times.
Vanessa is also the County Spelling Bee Champ who will now go on to the Regionals...with or without her mother present. She wasn't present for the County Bee...she sent her Press Secretary to stand in for her. Is it so awful for her to want her mother to come to the spelling bees, or be home to play Scrabble with like she used to, or to be with her in the ER after she's broken her wrist in PE? Being the Govenor's daughter, particularly when said Govenor is campaigning, ranks very high in the Life Sucks department.
But Vanessa has more to worry about than the upcoming Regionals or even playing Scrabble. There is Reginald Trumbull, the handsomest boy at Lawndale, who Vanessa is in love with and hopes to someday bear his 2.3 children; there are her humongous feet, which automatically trip her whenever there is a news camera fixating on her...and of course will show her picture in all its gawky glory on the 6 o'clock news; there is the Boob Fairy who has not yet graced Vanessa with her presence, thereby making her practically the only 12 and 3/4 year old girl in all of Florida who does not need a bra; there is the fact that she has to make an appointment to see her mother, but her bodyguard is present 24/7; there are the secret love notes she's getting from an unknown admirer, whom she hopes and prays is actually Reginald; and there are those other notes she is getting...the ones that threaten Vanessa's mother with death if Vanessa doesn't talk her out of running for President.
This is a novel which deals with many teenage issues that most pre-teen girls will understand and identity with: mother/daughter relationships; first crushes; embarrassing moments; teenage insecurities and physical awkwardness; and the issue of a working mother who doesn't have time for her daughter, although she loves her very much. It is also a novel that deals with a daughter fearing for the life of her mother, and the sometimes unlikely things she does to "protect" her mother.
I really liked the story, but found some inconsistencies in it. I didn't see a lot of personal growth in Vanessa, until the very end. I think her character could have been developed a little more. One issue I felt was pretty much ignored was that Vanessa's father was killed in a plane crash, but that's all we know. How did she deal with such a tragic event? How did she get from that terrible happening to where her mother is Govenor and now campaigning for the Presidency? That was something I felt must have been a major issue in her life, and yet it was barely touched upon.
The other thing I got fairly bored with was that on practically every page, one of her spelling words, or any "big" word, was S P E L L E D O U T. That got to be a little A N N O Y I N G !
One other thing is that the book is recommended for teens, and I'm not sure how many older teen-age girls would be interested. The awkwardness, the first love, the spelling bees, all seem more appropriate for 9 to 12 year olds. However, having said that, there are certain concepts, like the "Boob Fairy" for one, that even a 9 year old might not be too familiar with. Over all, though, it is a good read, humorous and sensitive at the same time, and one I can highly recommend.
Until next time,
That's a wrap.