The Book of Essie
Author: Meghan MacLean Weir
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published on: June 12, 2018
Published by: Knopf – Penguin Random House
Esther Anne Hicks – Essie – is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a wildly popular reality television show. Essie grew up in the spotlight; her parents, Pastor Jethro and Celia Hicks, won the hearts (or curiosity) of viewers before she was even born. Some people despise them for their lavishness, faith, and bigotry. Some people idolize them. Either way, everyone watches their show.
“On our left is the New Light megachurch, where Essie’s father tends to his mayonnaise-colored flock” (36).
Now she is 17 years-old and pregnant. Naturally, the first course of action is to meet with the show’s producers to decide how they will handle the ‘situation’. Do they sneak Essie abroad for an abortion? Do they pass it off as her mother’s? Do they quickly arrange a marriage? Does Essie have a say in the matter? Of course not… Or maybe that is just want she wants them to think.
An arranged marriage is decided; it will bring in the ratings, not to mention millions of dollars. Essie discreetly manipulates her mother to get what she wants: to marry Roarke Richards. With the help of Liberty Bell, an infamously conservative reporter, the young couple has to convince viewers that they are in love and nothing is amiss. All the while, they quietly uncover their own secrets as well as everyone else’s dirt. How far will Essie go to win her own freedom?
“Don’t get mad, get even” (131).
The story is told from the point-of-view of three characters:
- Roarke, &
- Liberty Bell.
Although the story revolves around Essie and her Duggar-family lifestyle, Weir also brings readers into the shockingly interesting lives of Roake and Liberty. If you thought that a pregnant pastor’s daughter who has grown up in the midst of a reality television show was interesting enough, then you are certainly in for a surprise.
I find it odd that this book is categorized in the Contemporary Fiction genre, and not Contemporary Young Adult. The characters are teenagers, the themes are typical of YA, and the language is simple. It got me thinking, what exactly makes a book Young Adult? Comment below and let me know what your thoughts are on this!
Weir tackles some heavy topics. Dealing with religion, helicopter parenting, extreme conservatism, sexual abuse, cult-like upbringings, sexual orientation, homophobia, teenage pregnancy, and the affects of fame and fortune, it is a wonder how Weir managed to create a light-read. Some fellow readers are disappointed that some of the above-mentioned issues are skimmed over and not done justice, but it did not bother me as much.
This book is a perfect summer-read. The chapters are relatively short and the twists and turns just keep on coming! I read the majority of the book while sunbathing on a beautiful Sunday… the “one-more-chapter” syndrome rewarded me with a nasty sunburn. WORTH IT.