Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: The Book of Essie

Author: Meghan Maclean Weir
Publication Date: June 12, 2018 
Publisher: Knopf

A captivating novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart. 

Esther Ann Hicks--Essie--is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She's grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family's fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie's mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show's producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia's? Or do they try to arrange a marriage--and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media--through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell--Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?

The Book of Essiefollows our main character Essie Hicks and her family as they venture through life while being filmed for reality TV on their show called “Six for Hicks.” Think Duggars – yeah, that’s the Hicks family. So, knowing that the Hicks family is similar to the Duggars, you may have guessed that they are religious, pious, and all the other synonyms that relate to the word CONSERVATIVE. Are you ready for the twist? Essie, the youngest in the pastor’s family, is pregnant at seventeen.

The novel shares the viewpoints of three characters: Essie, Roarke (Essie’s chosen husband), and Liberty (a television reporter). Essie is by far my favorite character because of the character arc she follows during this story. She is victim to many issues and struggles and you will be rooting for her the entire time you read. I was very glad that I got to see this world through her eyes. She is a phenomenal character – realistic, emotional, pure, and determined to break free. My next favorite thing about reading this debut was the relationship shared by Roarke and Essie. Roarke has a few secrets of his own and you will spend a lot of the book waiting for them to be revelaed. These two characters need each other for far more reasons than the obvious. 

Weir does an excellent job at dealing with religion, topics like abuse, and LGBTQ +. She handles all of these topics tastefully. This book deals with some major abuse and should not be taken lightly. I felt myself cringe at times and wonder why some people choose to live this way, but I am not one to judge. This book is fast-paced and deals with a lot of family drama – I would definitely recommend if you are a fan of these. The alternating POV’s is done well and each of the three characters has a voice that is distinctly their own. Characters were fully developed – I loved all of them, but Essie the best, of course! 

It was hard to believe that I deserve a day like this. I used to think no one would ever love me. I used to think that I was unlovable. I used to think that everything that happened to me was my fault, that I deserved it. 'Be brave', my father said during the ceremony. It's hard to be brave, but I know I have to try..."

On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby of if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk. 

Small-town girl in the big city; they almost didn’t let me come.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Knopf in exchange for my honest review***

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