The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on June 12, 2018
Genre(s): fiction, contemporary
Format & Length: audiobook, 11:09:13
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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?
I had heard good things about The Book of Essie, so when I saw the audiobook was available from my library’s digital catalog, I snatched it up. And I’m glad that I did. This book lived up to my expectations!
“…you never can tell what a family is like from the outside looking in.”
This contemporary novel is told through three perspectives. The first is Essie, the youngest child in the Hicks family that has grown up on a reality TV show. The second is Roarke, a fellow student at Essie’s high school who comes to know her over time. And the third is Liberty, the reporter Essie reaches out to to help promote their story. Each of these characters is intriguing, with unique backstories that complement each other in interesting ways. In the audiobook, each perspective is narrated by a different voice actor and they were all easy on the ears, making for an excellent listening experience.
In addition to well-developed characters, the plot in this book is also engaging and is paced well to unveil key points along the way. That, along with writing that felt natural and flowed well, made this a story that was hard to put down. Not only was this entertaining, it also explored some big and current themes, including fame, family, love, hypocrisy, and abuse to deliver strong messages.
All in all, I found The Book of Essie to be a compelling and powerful story, and I was surprised when I realized afterwards that it’s the author’s debut novel. I look forward to seeing what she does next! Definitely recommended.