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?
When I picked up THE BOOK OF ESSIE, I was looking for a different kind of read. I had seen glowing reviews (Janel’s & Susie’s for example) and I found the whole religious “cult” angle and reality tv show quite interesting. As soon as I started reading it, I was instantly captivated by this book… who wouldn’t, with such a shocking beginning?
This is the story of Esther “Essie” Hicks, a reality tv child that grew up in the spotlight because of her family’s religious tv show. Being the daughter of a tv minister, Essie never got to decide anything in her life and her existence was filled with hypocrisy and secrets. Her sister left the family when she still a kid and Essie wants to know why. Everything changes when Essie falls pregnant and the family has to decide if she should get married or have an abortion instead (of course, in secret). As you could expect, she can’t decide anything for herself… or can she?
The book is narrated by Essie, Roarke, and Liberty Bell. Hands down, my favorite aspect of this novel was that I absolutely LOVED the three main characters with all my heart. It’s been a few weeks since I read this book and I could still remember their names and their story. Essie was the protagonist and, to be honest, from what I knew when I started reading THE BOOK OF ESSIE, I never expected to like her as much as I did. But as soon as I read the first chapter, I realized she was strong, determined and I found myself rooting for her. On the other hand, Roarke was probably the most mature and kind young man that has ever existed in modern fiction -too unrealistic? 🤣- . Finally, Liberty Bell was such a complex and interesting character that my only complaint is that I wish I could’ve read a book about her story. I know I’m not the only one.
Keep in mind that the book deals with familiar themes so I can’t say the truth of it all would surprise many readers. But I certanly know that didn’t really mind, as the narration had completely won me over. You should read this because of the characters, not for the sake of shock value. And of course, you should read this because of Essie and Roarke, whose relationship was lovely and undoubtedly among my favorites.
In the end, THE BOOK OF ESSIE is an emotional, insightful and provocative book about fame, abuse, religion, mass culture and the modern world.
Have you read this novel? Did you love the characters as much as I did? 💙