The Daughters by Johanna Philbin

by Blythe Robbins

Escape Yourself for a Day!

There are some days when I just want to turn off my brain. I’m too tired to think, and I want to live someone else’s life for awhile. Even though I’m far from the beach and it’s no longer summertime, I long for an entertaining beach book to sweep me of my feet. I recently stumbled on just such a book when I was home sick. Coughing and headachy, I read the front cover aloud to myself: “The Daughters: They didn’t ask for fame. They were born with it.” I knew I needed to look no further, and I promptly opened the cover and avoided my life for the entire day.

Written by Joanna Philbin, daughter of Live with Regis and Kelly host Regis Philbin, The Daughters focuses on three fourteen-year-old best friends who live their lives thrust in the spotlight because of their parents.  Lizzie, Carina, and Hudson are the daughters of a world-renowned supermodel, a billionaire business magnate, and a chart-topping pop star. Each one struggles with her famous parent in a different way, although all hope to distinguish themselves from their parents.

Clearly, we can see that Philbin didn’t have to search far for the ideas in her novel (and now a series, with the recently published The Daughters Break the Rules), but this knowledge only adds to the fun of the book. Knowing that Philbin herself understands what it’s like to live with a famous parent, we easily trust her as a guide to take us into the world of celebrity Manhattan filled with fashion shows, exclusive parties, and famous people. We trust Philbin’s descriptions of discomfort at being photographed by paparazzi while simultaneously being awed by a famous parent’s ability to handle being a celebrity. She is, quite simply, an expert.

Philbin uses her expertise to craft the story of Lizzie Summers (the second book in the series follows Carina, so I assume there will be at least one book per girl). Awkward and unconventional-looking, Lizzie is tired of being compared to her supermodel mother. In a moment of weakness when a reporter approaches her, Lizzie announces that the new collection of clothes that her mother has designed is: “a little slutty.” This, of course, sets off a press field day and Lizzie has to deal with disappointed parents and her own embarrassment.

Lizzie’s moment on camera, however, attracts the attention of a photographer who is into “ugly modeling.” Ugly modeling focuses on using real-looking people (think Dove commercials) to sell products. Hesitant but curious, Lizzie decides to do a photo shoot and discovers she’s a natural at being a model. Lots of expected moments follow: Lizzie coming to terms with her looks, sweet moments with her mom, making wrong decisions, etc. Even though the moments aren’t surprising, they’re still fun to experience as the reader.

Of course, being fourteen, Lizzie isn’t just dealing with her new modeling talent. She really wants to be a writer like her dad, and there’s the gorgeous boy who seems to like her but dates another girl. As Lizzie juggles her life and learns from her mistakes, her life lessons sometimes come across as too preachy or too abrupt and transparent – but remember, this isn’t a literary classic but escapist fun!  As long as your expectations aren’t too high, The Daughters is a guilty pleasure that’s enjoyable, albeit forgettable.

Blythe Robbins, a Californian living in New York City, is a geeky editor by day. At night, she can be found reading fiction or writing her blog: theonegoodthing.blogspot.com.

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