The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Genres: Coming-of-Age, Domestic, Contemporary, Young Adult
For Essie Hicks, the cameras of the reality TV show Six for Hicks have always been a part of her life, since before she was born. Her father, a pastor of the fire-and-brimstone brand, and mother have always welcomed the cameras but trained their children how to perform in front of the camera to hit the highest ratings. Now, when 17-year-old Essie discovers that she is pregnant, her mother sees two solutions, a quiet abortion or marrying off her daughter. Essie looks for comfort and friendship in Roarke Richards, a senior at her high school who is trying to hide a secret of his own as well as seeking out the well known conservative reporter, Liberty Bell. Throughout the story, Essie begins to ask the big questions that she has been needing to ask for years: What was the real reason that her older sister left home? How much is she willing to sacrifice for her own freedom?
This was a great read that never seemed to slow down or lag at any real part. It was also a very quick read, but it kept me thinking and my enjoyment for the story is undeniable.
The narrative weaves in and out from the perspectives of Essie, Roarke, and Liberty while sticking to the central goal of revealing the truth behind why Essie needs to escape from her family.
The book is also very relevant right now. It is no question that there is a dividing mark between many people right now who are leaning against religion for bigotry. The story talks about what the atmosphere is like for living in a town that has homophobia, racist, and lets rape slide under the radar.
I picked up this book assuming that the writing would be “preachy,” with Essie always falling back on how amazing God is and thankful for all that he has done… blah blah blah. Rather, this book seems to be contrary to that, because Essie overlooks the wool that has been pulled over so many eyes and see her “perfect” family for what it really is. It can be hard for an author to find the perfect balance where they are not wholly relying on religion and preaching to carry the story, and Meghan Maclean Weir did a beautiful job of finding the balance.
There are several strong female characters that carry the story, and they seem to emit the power that a woman’s voice can have. Essie, Liberty, Libby (Essie’s older sister), and Margot are all amazing and really drive the story. Roarke is also a very interesting and diverse character and I am glad that Weir added his perspective in. He is a friend and confidant for Essie when she truly needed one because she was so alone, and he is also pegged as the hero in the story for the heroic deed that he performed. The other aspect of
Roarke and Essie’s relationship is that a romance between the two is never pushed, but rather shows that not all love has to be romantic. Liberty, the journalist, has had a rough background that unfolds throughout the book and seems to run somewhat parallel to Essie’s, making it the perfect addition to the story and making more sense for why Essie reached out to Liberty.
Margot is Liberty’s cameraman and she provided the extra bit that would have otherwise been missing. She is gay, she is different, she sticks out like a sore thumb in the very conservative town that Essie’s dad practically runs. I feel like this is Weir’s way for thumbing her nose to Essie’s dad who let monstrosities happen under his roof.
The ending was completely satisfying and wrapped everything up into a neat little bow. It left one or two parts for you to wonder about, but not so much that you are left wondering why you read the book at all.
The writing is very good throughout the book, easy to read but does not feel like a Young/New Adult book that is specifically meant for high schoolers. The cover is also amazingly beautiful and simple. I truly did enjoy reading this book and hope the Meghan Maclean Weir continues writing books in the future.
This was a wonderful quick read that anyone who is wanting a break from their day to day life should pick up and read. It’s fast-paced, makes you think and smile, and will not break your heart.
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