#Diverseathon2021: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
The Book of Essie
Author: Meghan MacLean Weir
Published: June 12, 2018
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: June 18-23, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
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 don’t watch too much television, but yes in the past I have been a fan of ‘Reality TV’. And yes, I know reality tv actually isn’t real- It just finds a way to pull you in and keeps you watching, even more so when it is a train wreck!
The Book of Essie is about an extreme right wing Christian family that has been on television for many years, in fact for longer than Essie’s seventeen years. Essie is the youngest child of the Hicks family and to her mother Celia’s shock Essie is pregnant. Mom and production have a meeting (without Essie being present) to decide what to do with this situation. Several suggestions are made on what to do with Essie’s condition and it is decided that Essie will marry. This will be a ratings blockbuster to the show! Of course, when the baby comes earlier than it should the show will pay doctors to say that yes, the due date was actually X date after the marriage occurred. But who will Essie marry?
We have three narrators: Essie herself, Roarke who is the boy that Celia decides Essie will marry, and Liberty is the one who interviews the ‘couple’. This is a novel that quickly takes place over the course of a few weeks, because time is of the essence. The show has to come up with a fake backstory of Essie and Roarke falling in love months before. And of course, the viewers take everything in and adore this newly famous and in love couple. But there is so much going on behind the scenes that is unknown, including Essie’s older sister who disappeared from the cameras after she graduated high school. So we have a little bit of a mystery as well!
I really liked Essie. Growing up in a unique situation and then finding herself in yet another situation, she may come off that she is not in control, as her mother Celia is all but in charge of everything, but Essie knows what she wants and will do what she needs to do to get it!
We also get backstories to Roarke and Liberty, who both have not had easy lives and have secrets. I did not find myself interested in these two backstories, I was 1000% into reading what was going to happen with Essie and this ‘wedding’. The story goes in a partially guessed/expected direction, but I found myself highly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. There are conclusions at the end and everything does get wrapped up nicely.
The Book of Essie ended up working for this month’s prompt for Diverseathon: An LGBTQ+ main character, which I did not know about when I started reading it. And I’m getting this review in just at the end of the month, go me!
I think part of the reason I really enjoyed this novel is that in some ways we get to see how reality television shows are made. If you enjoy reality tv at all and read YA, then you need to read this book! I can not wait to see what Weir writes next.
For full details on this year long readathon, please click here.
And don’t forget about the awesome GRAND PRIZE at the end of the year. Click the link here for that information.
June’s host is Danyel at dany.alvey over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of $15 to Book Depository (or Amazon for a US winner) for your choice of a book. This is an international giveaway! Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.
Author: Katie O’Rourke
Narrator: Kaitlin Chin
Published: December 15, 2015
Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
Dates Read: March 18-25, 2020
It isn’t like Charlie to stay out all night without calling, but maybe Olivia doesn’t know her little sister as well as she thought.
When Charlie vanishes without warning, the people who love her are worried sick. Even if the law considers her an adult at nineteen, Charlie’s still the baby of her already broken family. Older sister Olivia is determined to figure out what’s happened. She finds a lost cell phone, an abandoned car and a shady boyfriend she’s never met before. And he’s not the only secret Charlie’s been keeping.
This disappearance feels uncomfortably familiar, reminding Olivia and her father of another loss years before. But this will be different, Olivia swears. Charlie’s coming back.
Olivia and Charlie’s mom left them with their father 12 years ago and have not seen her since. And now Charlie is nineteen years old and has gone missing, which is unlike her. Olivia starts searching for Charlie in her own way, as the police won’t really do anything yet, as Charlie is of age. During her search Olivia learns more about Charlie than she ever expected.
This is an unhurried, character driven novel with multiple narrators to give you the story of this family. The novel’s name has a double meaning as Olivia is searching for Charlie while Charlie is trying to discover who she is. This novel shows the family life and relationships that all members have. There is no action involved in the story, so Finding Charlie was slow moving for me and I was losing interest in it, though I did finish the novel. You guys know I Iove a good thriller, but also read other genres (including women’s fiction/contemporary fiction such as Finding Charlie), so this was nothing to fault the novel or author. It just wasn’t really a novel for me. I will be giving O’Rourke another try by reading her collection of short stories Still Life, which is free on Kindle.
Many thanks to the author for granting me an audible copy in exchange for a review.
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Published: January 21, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 8-February 1, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.
Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.
Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.
Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?
What must be said first: American Dirt is a work of fiction, and Jeanine Cummins brings us the story of Lydia and her son Luca, who lose their entire family during a quinceañera in the first few chapters of the novel. From here, Lydia and Luca have no choice but go on a journey of traveling through Mexico to illegally cross the border into the USA. American Dirt shows how much one mother will go through to save her child at all costs.
At times the novel did drag for me, as it seemed too long. American Dirt does show the reader who may not be of Hispanic origin how dangerous Mexico is and the perilous journey migrants face as they attempt to cross the border illegally. And most don’t ever make it. Some of the journey came with extremes and it seemed like Cummins was trying for some extreme shock value to some of what happens to our characters and the others they come across.
Do read the Author’s Note as Cummins gives us some insight into her wanting to write this story and her family. She is of Puerto Rican descent and her husband was an illegal immigrant. It took her five years to get American Dirt published.
I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator is Yareli Arizmendi. She is Mexican and narrated the novel with perfection. She gave a voice to the Spanish words for me, which if I had read them myself, I would have butchered the way they were supposed to be said.
Many thanks to the publishers Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio for granting me an arc digital download of the novel to listen to.