Change and consequences
Reviewed by Ravia Gupta

Extreme American Makeover
By Mitali Perkins.
Pages 258. Rs 199.

IT's for sure that you may not have heard or even read about such a makeover ever before. Extreme American Makeover is a story of a 16-year-old short, spunky and just a regular girl, Sameera, also known as ‘Sparrow’ among her friends.

It’s a journey of a Pakistan-born teenager from being Sameera Righton to Sammy Righton, the adopted daughter of America’s Republican presidential candidate, James Righton.

The story is a beautiful narration of how the life of this teenage girl changes once she gets to the centrestage of the exhausting presidential election campaign. She gets a makeover done and suddenly finds herself getting everything except privacy. She has quite a few very good friends, but soon she starts meeting new people and realises that she needs to expand her circle and welcome new people in her life.

As the election day heats up, Sameera believes that her dad will be the best President America can ever get simply because he is loyal and smart to the core. With this belief, she joins her social activist mother Elizabeth Campbell to campaign for her father.

And now, it’s time for that "Extreme American Makeover"; time to open that make-up case and extra suitcase as campaign enthusiast Tara Colby steps in. Soon Sameera understands that campaigning is like coxing. The more it is done, the more confident one becomes. And now, when reporters surround her parents and hustle them out of the loud, dimly ballroom, Sameera’s self-appointed teen girl flanks her and before she understands what is happening, she is at the centre of a singing pulsating solidarity of ‘dancing daughters’.

With nationwide grassroots promotion and the help that she gets from her circle of 29 friends to hone her posts, the word spreads about Righton’s daughter’s real blog,, which starts getting several hits and comments galore mostly from the young people.

In an attempt to connect to her readers, Sparrow explains them about her new ‘avatar’. She explains them how worried the members of her father’s campaign team were about her not being an ‘American’ enough.

They were worried that her Pakistan origin may damage her dad’s campaign and that’s how Sammy Righton is born. But she thanks her readers and says that they proved the campaign team wrong and accepted the real her. She apologises for letting someone else steal her voice, and the Americans do forgive her.

The site though receives only a few insulting or unrelated comments and critics were quickly torn apart by other commentators leaping to Sameera’s defense. The New York Times even describes the site as "The ultimate teen town hall", "moderated by a young woman who seems wise beyond her years".

All in all the story has a simple and funny narration, written from a teenager’s point of view who believes in possibilities.