America’s Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr.

Dutton. Jul. 2019. 464p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781524742386. $29. BIOG
John F. Kennedy Jr. (1960–99) struggled throughout his life to establish his own identity apart from the roles imposed on him by society and the media, writes Gillon (history, Univ. of Oklahoma; Separate and Unequal). This deeply researched biography from the History Channel scholar in residence flows like a novel, relying heavily on more than 50 interviews and hundreds of documents released to Gillon in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Secret Service. The focus is on Kennedy’s years as the editor of George magazine, a publication that had difficulty finding its niche linking politics and pop culture. Gillon covers Kennedy’s challenges in prep school, as well as Brown and New York University, along with the added stress of constant paparazzi. Also included are stories of Kennedy’s complex relationships with his mother, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and sister, Caroline; his rocky marriage to Carolyn Bessette; his maturing into a compassionate activist; and his legacy for the country and for Gillon himself. A unique feature are the stories the author relates about his friendship with Kennedy, whom he met as a teaching assistant at Brown. The two remained close until Kennedy’s death.
VERDICT Readers fascinated by the Kennedys will be delighted by this captivating biography. See Randy Taraborelli's The Kennedy Heirs for a comprehensive account of the third generation Kennedys.

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