Thursday, July 25, 2013

{Book TOur} Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner

It is in our human make-up to be competitive. I get that. And it’s not all bad. We like to measure our strength in sports and hail the champion. We get rid of pent up aggression by cheering on our local team. We push ourselves in our professions to get to the top of the pack, always striving to get better.
On all levels of life we find a way to compete. Even beauty has a set of rules that determine who is the winner. Although I’m not a fan of beauty contests and don’t see the perceived achievement in being Miss Whatever, I’m not bothered if others engage in such entertainment, as long as they enjoy their activities … and as long as they are adults.
What I immensely dislike is seeing small children pushed into a lifestyle of competing against each other to determine who is cuter or more talented. Especially if they are forced to dress up and behave like mini adults.
I find ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ creepy. Those glitzy dresses and bee-hive hairstyles on five year old girls is freaky. But even without the attempt at grown-up glamour, TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” are just as bad. This poor little girl is exploited mercilessly. She is already a train wreck, and I don’t want to speculate how she will handle her life when she gets older.
As far as I’m concerned, the only time kids should be competing is on their home play-ground, without the interference of adults, without exposing them to perverts. Yes, I’m sorry, but those seemingly harmless competitions are a haven for pedophiles, make no mistake about it.
Every psychiatrist and law enforcement officer will wave a red flag when it comes to such exploitation of minors. I researched deeply into this subject before I wrote my thriller “Birthdays of a Princess”, and offer this warning: If you have a pretty, adorable child, and you are contemplating entering her into a beauty pageant, please think again. You and your child might find it amusing for a short period of time, but the end result is a seriously damaged young person, and a desperate parent. Let your child grow up healthy and happy…and treat him or her age-appropriately.
Helga Zeiner, author

Birthdays of a Princess
by Helga Zeiner
Publisher: POW WOW Books
Almost from age one, Tiara has been a star of the American Child Beauty Circuit. When she grows too old to win anymore, her mother leaves Texas and returns to Vancouver. Tiara is twelve years old, she refuses to attend school or interact with other children, becoming more and more reclusive. Her relationship with her mother deteriorates and they become estranged.

One morning, three years later, Tiara’s mother is shocked to find her daughter the subject of a big story on the morning news. A violent assault has just occurred at a local coffee shop and it seems Tiara is the perpetrator. The brutal and seemingly unprovoked assault lands her in the Burnaby Secure Youth Centre for a court ordered psychological assessment.

When the police investigate the incident they begin to slowly unravel her confused and dark childhood. They discover her history as a child beauty queen star, managed by her mother and aunt while living in Texas. It also becomes increasingly apparent that explicit photos of Tiara were taken and posted to many internet sites The photos seem to capture Tiara over many years and lead the detectives to wonder whether she is the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Tiara herself cannot provide any insight. She has buried the memories of her childhood deep in her sub-consciousness, and even if she could remember, she is deeply traumatized and unresponsive. Any attempts by the authorities to probe result in more withdrawal and unexplained expressions of grief and anger.

Carefully guided by the adolescent forensic psychiatrist in charge at the Secure Youth Centre, she begins to write a journal, anchoring her memories on her birthdays as she remembers them. At the same time, her mother tries to explain the past from her own perspective, insisting she only wanted the best for her daughter and refusing to acknowledge any responsibility at all for what Tiara has experienced. It becomes very obvious that Tiara has been greatly damaged by her childhood.

Slowly the two story-lines merge until they arrive at the moment when mother and daughter recall the trauma that eventually leads to the attack. Tiara begins to understand the horrific nature of her abnormal childhood. She allows the psychiatrist to read the notes in her journal, subconsciously guiding him toward the truth.  

But the truth is not clear cut. Tiara is guilty of aggravated assault. Even the detectives can't find motive to explain her action, which means the judicial system has no choice but to keep her locked up as a dangerous juvenile criminal. Tiara remembers much of her past but she has no idea why she stabbed a strange woman in a coffee shop. Her mental isolation doesn't allow her to confront this important question. Only the psychiatrist, with the assistance of the detectives who keep digging in the past, might be able to unlock the secret buried in her soul.  

And they are successful, but in a way they never expected. When Tia remembers all that had happened and what had motivated her to attack another human being, the final answer, the solution to the puzzle, surprises them all.

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