Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Book of Essie - Meghan Maclean Weir

Summary: A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating 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? (Summary and pic from

My Review: I think the cover of this book actually does a really good job of summing up what the book is like. I’m assuming that you’re looking at the pic of this cover as you’re reading this review, but what you can’t see is that yes, there’s that fundamentalist-looking girl, but the writing of the title is written in this cheesy, sparkly, pop-culture font. It’s the absolute dichotomy. Like I said, it’s a really clever and subtle way to pretty much sum it all up.

I think we can all agree that although there is some reality TV that is fun and entertaining (and we all have our faves, even though some of it is borderline “reality,”) some is downright disturbing. The Book of Essie is basically an over-exaggeration of reality TV and the plugged-in generation of people who want to watch other people’s lives, no matter how real or not real that TV may be.

This book is written with a subtle exaggeration in that you can tell it’s all a little over the top, but that it’s that way for a reason. The situations are just a little too much, the characters are just a little too smart or things work out just a little too well, but in the end this is obviously for a reason. Now don’t get me wrong, despite the over-the-top nature of much of the book, it is still very disturbing. We’ve all read about and experienced reality people or fame-seeking people who are willing to do pretty much anything to be famous, and this family, especially the mom, has paid every price. It feels even a little ickier because the father is a TV preacher, and although I don’t think anyone considers those dudes to be the epitome of humility, it still feels weird to have all of the deception and lies and blatant disregard for their children all be done in the name of religion. However, this is another part of the book that seems very apropos to the current climate.

The situations in this book can’t help but be heartbreaking. You can see it coming from a mile away, and it is no surprise when the actual reveal comes about, although it is still really tragic. The author obviously had some messages she wanted to get across, and although she was able to do that, I would have liked the characters and situations fleshed out more. There were some really great moments of suspense and bravery, but there was also a fair amount of just day-to-day waiting that didn’t go anywhere specific. I think the tragedy could have been more explored in this space (because the book is a decent length as it is) and also the resolution a little more fleshed out. However, the author wanted readers to be disturbed and challenge the culture of media, reality culture, and social media, and I assure you it did just this.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language as well as sex and incest.

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