Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Book of Essie: Intriguing Premise, So-So Execution

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"The girl sitting on the red couch next to her newly proclaimed fiancé is wholly two-dimensional; she is a projection only, like light cast on the surface of a still pond or the first hint of dawn in winter as it breaks behind the barn.  She smiles when it is expected.  She says all the right things.  She is the exact combination of humble and sarcastic that gives the impression that she might actually be real.  But she isn't.  She's a fabrication.  A meticulously constructed and lifelike illusion, but an illusion all the same" (114-115).

As the daughter of a charismatic evangelical preacher, 17-year-old Esther "Essie" Hicks has been watched her whole life.  Literally.  Her family has been the subject of the hit reality show "Six for Hicks" for longer than she can remember.  Fans laud the Hicks' rock-solid faith and in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world attitude, while critics denounce their made-for-tv flakiness and the hypocrisy in their look-at-me lifestyle.  With her insider's view, Essie knows—or thinks she knows—what really goes on behind the scenes.  Sick of being in the spotlight, she longs to break free of it all.

When Essie announces she's pregnant, but refuses to name the father, the shocking news threatens to topple the entire Hicks enterprise.  The show's producers scramble to find a way to spin the unwelcome revelation, finally deciding on the most ratings-friendly option—a wedding.  Fake nuptials aren't enough for Essie's calculating mother; the marriage must not only come off as authentic, it has to be real.  Since wedding her baby's father is not an option, Essie sets her sights on 18-year-old Roarke Richards, an ambitious but penniless acquaintance.  Desperate to help his bankrupt parents and keep his own secret under wraps, Roarke reluctantly goes along with the Hicks' plan.  What he doesn't realize is that his new fiancee has her own agenda.  On a hunt for answers that could destroy her family forever, Essie won't stop digging until all their secrets are exposed.  How far will she go to win back the right to live her life on her own terms?  

The premise behind The Book of Essie, a debut novel by Meghan MacLean Weir, has fascinated me since I first heard about it.  With so much potential for juicy book drama, how could I not give this one a go?  While the story's big reveals aren't very surprising, the novel does offer some surprisingly sharp observations about authenticity, hypocrisy, media distortion, blind belief, and standing up for what's right.  Essie and Roarke are sympathetic characters, both of whom are easy to root for.  Their situation seems incredibly far-fetched, but it does lead to some interesting plot developments.  Although The Book of Essie kept my attention, I did find it disjointed and heavy-handed.  Overall, then, I didn't love it.  Despite the hype that surrounded this book, it was just an okay read for me.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Something Real by Heather Demetrios)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, depictions of underage drinking, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Book of Essie from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

4 comments:

  1. It is an intriguing premise. Too bad it didn't live up to expectations.

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  2. I've been wondering about this one too and actually picked up a copy a few days ago at a library sale (it was a good deal indeed). So, we'll see how I like it when the time comes. Certainly timely in the 'film the family' TV realm. :-)

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  3. I got this book from Book of the Month so will eventually read it.

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  4. Ooh! I love the premise and that Esie wants to expose her family. It worries me that she won't name the father. I hope it is not a family member...

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