The PM's daughter by Meredith Costain

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Catalina Parkes Mendes (call me ‘Cat’!) has opinions and a life that has now been tipped upside down because her mother has just become Prime Minister and moved her into the Lodge in Canberra.  Growing up as a teenager with a single Mum is hard enough without doing it in the gaze of the entire country. But the most difficult thing is having to swallow her opinions about climate change and what the future should look like in case it upsets her mother’s political agenda and standing. But right from the beginning things are going to be tough because the activist group Action Uprising is causing mayhem in Canberra, and although Cat loves her Mum, she probably supports them rather than her mother’s slow-paced political solutions. On top of this, she has to settle into a new school right at the time of Year-level elections and make friends and not upset anyone by expressing her real views. Silence is not really something that Cat is comfortable with, but she becomes tied up in the ‘political game’ in her own way. And friendship requires negotiation and side-stepping too. Life is a minefield and any false moves can have big consequences. And in the political arena Cat’s mother seems to be wearing a target too.

This is the book inspired by the ABC-TV programme created by Tristram Baumber and Matthew Allred. Its focus on the political world through the eyes of Cat, the recently-arrived Western Australian and now Canberran teen tangled in the conflict of ideas, is an eye-opening story. Even for those who have missed the TV series, this story weaves enough potential romance, activism with 21st century strategies, politics, and human drama together to make for an impressive storyline. It is fast paced and contemporary and worth recommending to readers aged 13+. With environmental issues mentioned without being argued, potential risks of a succession bid by Western Australia, the perils and ethics of activism and the protest movement, and insights into political life for family members who are accidental draftees, there is something to think about behind the coming-of-age aspects of teenage life. Meredith Costain has created a very readable story that communicates social and political issues with a light touch. The characters in the story come from a variety of cultural heritages and have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that are appealing and occasionally comical. Teen readers will enjoy this story.

Themes: Politics, Activism, Environmental issues, Friendship, Climate change.

Carolyn Hull