What if George Washington had been crowned king of America instead of elected as its first president? What if the ancient monarchies of Europe had never fallen? Katharine McGee imagines just this scenario in American Royals, which tells of a modern-day America still ruled by the Washingtons. The book’s focus is on four young women caught in a web of politics, friendship, and love. With their futures dictated by age old expectations, the girls must continuously fight to say true to their own morals and beliefs. The world they live in is both glitzy and glamorous but also cruel and cold, especially to outsiders.
Beatrice, the first female heir to the throne, feels alone in the pressure of her position, while her younger sister Samantha, called “the spare heir,” acts out in hopes of getting attention and tries to be everything that Beatrice is not. Then there is Nina, who, although a commoner, has grown up in the radius of the royal family. Nina is Samantha’s best friend and is in love with Prince Jefferson, Samantha’s twin. The fourth perspective is of Daphne, the supposed “villain” of the novel who has spent her entire life trying to fulfil her parents’ desires by marrying Prince Jefferson. More than once, each narrator asks if all this is worth it—if her parents’ wishes are worth going to such lengths to fulfill, and if keeping to one’s rank is worth sacrificing all that is important to her.
When I began reading American Royals, I believed that I would not be able to connect with the characters that make up this outlandish dystopia. Instead, I was pleased to find that my assumptions were wrong. I was able to see parts of myself in all of the four narrators. Instead of making the story feel disjointed, the multiple perspectives allow the reader to understand the political climate and the unique pressures each character faces while also challenging each woman’s assumptions. This is a story that focuses on the boxes that young women are forced into, as well as on their romantic relationships. While it often appears that they have their lives under control, in reality they are often fighting to be themselves. Certainly we can all relate to that.