ALL-AMERICAN GIRL was my JAM when I was a teen. I reread this book over and over and identified so much with Sam, who wore all black and didn't like pop music and fancied herself an artist and didn't want to have her identity stifled by the #establishment. Sam was me!!! Actually, Sam was a lot of people but teen me was too stupid and self-centered to realize that, so I thought Sam was written for me and me alone. Ha.
This is escapist wish-fulfillment fantasy at its finest. When Sam is caught doodling and selling pictures of her classmates with late-90s/early-2000s sex symbols for money (hello, Heath Ledger and Josh Hartnett), she is forced into an after school drawing class. Well, one day she skips and accidentally stops an assassination attempt on the POTUS, and ends up becoming America's darling-- oh, and it turns out the cute, Save Ferris-loving hottie in her art class is POTUS's son. What is a girl to do??
Me reading this as a teen: OMG SAM IS SO SMART
Me reading this as an adult: OMG SHUT UP SAM YOU KNOW NOTHING
It's hard to watch her crushing on her older sister's boyfriend, Jack, who is like the posterboy for douches everywhere. He's like Trent, from Daria, without any of the self-effacing charm. He's just such a sleaze and I wanted to punch him in his ponytailed face.
Me reading this as a teen: OMG DAVID IS SO HOT
Me reading this as an adult: OMG DAVID IS SUCH A CINNAMON ROLL
David is a great love interest. Meg Cabot's love interests were always so good. She struck the perfect balance between, like, a swoony beta and a guy who would swoop in to defend his "querida" from danger. My only criticism is that teen me also thought Jack was hot, too. Which, no.
Me reading this as a teen: OMG THIS IS SO REALISTIC
Me reading this as an adult: Ummmmm, yeah. No.
I will say that this comes across as surprisingly not dated with regard to politics. There's a scene where Sam has to pick the best painting and she chooses one that shows illegal immigration and the POTUS gets all up in arms about it, like "omg, THAT can't win, it's too politically charged, oh no!"
Which makes me sad because this book comes up in 2002 and we STILL haven't fixed the problem. In fact, we made it worse. And by "we," I mean Republicans and Trump.
I enjoyed the old pop culture references to things like ska music, David Boreanaz, Espirit, denim mini dresses, and Virgin Records stores (not sure any of those are still around). It definitely doesn't hold up, though, and I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite as much as I did without all of the nostalgia.
2.5 out of 5 stars