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.
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.