Homebook reviewBook Review: First Daughter, by Eric Van Lustbader

Have you ever finished reading a book and immediately felt the need to take a shower?

Yeah, that was my first impulse after reading First Daughter.

The book’s about special agent Jack McLure’s efforts to find the president elect’s kidnapped daughter before he’s sworn into office. There’s intrigue, double crosses, Stockholm Syndrome and lots of 007 type shenanigans.

I picked it up, because Jack is severely dyslexic. For the most part, Van Lustbader did an excellent job of portraying the symptoms and coping mechanisms. My favorite part was how well he demonstrated how much strong emotion and stress impacts the ability to read. When Jack’s free to read at his own speed, he’s something of a bookworm, which is something I can relate to well. I’d love to see more dyslexic characters display those traits, because they’re much more common than fiction wants to represent.

There were also parts where I could see why Van Lustbader is a best selling author. When he puts effort into it, he can describe settings and events beautifully. I’ll admit his description of certain baked goods had me craving the real world equivalents.

The plot had potential, but it was overshadowed for me by everything that was wrong with the book.

For starters, while Jack could be an interesting, well rounded character, he has a lot of the whole “perfect, tragic hero” to him. He’s the guy every man supposedly wants to be – irresistible to the ladies, sensitive, strong, Sherlock-smart, stunt driver, and scrapper, rolled into one. Get rid of some of those super-hero qualities, and he could be a great character.

What bugged me the most was how women were portrayed in the book. Every female fell into one or more of these categories:

  • Sex object
  • Victim
  • Faithful partner

Every single woman, barring Jack’s dead daughter, fell into that first category.

There was one character, Nina, who could have been seen as a strong lady, until it was revealed everything she did was because she’d fallen victim to the Big Bad of the book before the start of the story. She also made it through a little over half of the book without being turned into a complete sex object, but she wound up being little more than an hypersexualized victim in the end.

Ugh.

The other male characters were stereotyped, too. There was the religious man who cheated on his faithful wife, the hyper-right wing/religious zealot former president, the savior Reverend, the heart-of-gold thug, militant atheist, logical atheist, amongst others.

All of that heavily overshadowed the dyslexic representation and ruined the book for me.

Judging from other reviews I’ve read, it seems as if this is simply a bad book in an otherwise successful career. Still, I’m not sure I want to pick anything up by this author again. Maybe I’ll give the bad taste a chance to fade before giving him another try.

Ordinarily, I can find someone to suggest a book to, but this one? Nope. Spare yourself the frustration and pass this one up.

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