Bristol Palin's memoir "Not Afraid of My Life" is less of a cautionary tale and more of a rant

Bristol Palin vents about her ex and the McCains, but if she's learned some life lessons they don't come through in her memoir.

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    Twenty-year-old Bristol Palin has already become a mother, ended a relationship, become a media star, and – now – published a memoir.
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It seems Bristol Palin has lived several lifetimes in her 20 years.

At an age when most 20-year-olds are adjusting to college and doing their own laundry, the eldest daughter of Sarah Palin had already: broken her own vow to remain celibate until marriage; became a teenage mother; stumbled through an on-again, off-again troubled relationship with the father of her child; entered the fray of reality TV on “Dancing with the Stars”; and got media-savvy fast on the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign trail.

Did we forget to mention she’s also published a memoir?

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Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far, hit shelves Tuesday and its already creating waves. The younger Ms. Palin dishes on everything, from losing her virginity while drunk on wine coolers, to her combustible relationship with “the gnat named Levi Johnston,” to her intense dislike for the McCains.

(Mr. Johnston, of course, will be releasing his own memoir, “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs,” later this summer. We’ll report later on the quarter-life memoir trend.)

Palin begins her book with her account of the seminal night that “would affect my life in ways a teenager could not comprehend.”

She recounts a summer night in high school when she went on a camping trip with Johnston, got woozy on wine coolers, and woke up the next morning in a tent, next to Johnston’s empty sleeping bag.

“I could tell by the evidence in the tent that all of my plans, my promises, and my moral standards had disappeared in one awful night in a series of bad decisions,” Palin writes, adding that she then immediately felt obliged to marry Johnston.

She goes on to disparage him with a string of anecdotes in the book: His reaction when he found out Palin was pregnant? “Better be a [expletive] boy.”
The way he proposed? Slipped a ring on Palin’s finger while they were watching TV, adding, “It was expensive.”

His behavior throughout? “[He] cheated on me about as frequently as he sharpened his hockey skates,” writes Palin, adding that he would make up for his infidelities with gifts like Coach purses, Abercrombie clothing, and designer rain boots.

Palin writes that she forgave Johnston and started sleeping with him again, hoping that he would stop cheating.

“It was part 'thank you,' part 'security deposit,” she writes.

She finally ended their relationship after discovering Johnston had impregnated another girl and named the child Bentley.

She goes on to dish on the 2008 presidential race and the McCains. She describes Cindy and Meghan McCain as demanding divas who alternately ignored and snubbed her.

Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy “looked like a queen” and “held herself like royalty,” she writes. The senator's daughter, Meghan McCain, “ignored us during the entire visit…. I had a sneaking suspicious I might need to watch my back.”

She added, “[I’ve] never seen people with so much Louis Vuitton luggage, so many cell phones, and so many constant helpers to do hair and makeup.”

(Meghan McCain responded on Twitter to Bristol's accusations with a link to a video from 2008 that shows her happy reaction to her father's choice for vice president.)

According to “Not Afraid of Life,” upon their first meeting, Cindy McCain asked to be the godmother to Tripp, Palin’s son. “I wondered why she wanted any type of guardianship over my child [since we had] just met,” Palin writes.

At times, Palin does endear herself to readers with her self-deprecation (“my life had become a Jerry Springer episode, and a bad one at that”) and, frankly, her sheer grit.

But if she wrote this book so others can learn from the “pretty foolish decisions” she’s made, she’s hardly been a paradigm of reform. Her justification for continuing premarital sex, which she had sworn off (“Since Levi and I were going to get married, I rationalized that our premarital sex wasn’t that big of a deal”), her catty asides, and the trail of trash talk, make “Not Afraid of Life” seem more of a vent-session and plea for attention than a sincere effort to be a role model for other teens.

Writes the Washington Post, “If Palin truly counts herself among the most famous of women who have been wronged, and she really does want to help young adults avoid making similar mistakes, then it’s sad she couldn’t put her celebrity to more positive use.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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