My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Published: June 12th, 2018
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Fiction, Contemporary, Religion, Abuse, Family Drama
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?
TRIGGER WARNING – Abuse.
For a long time, I didn’t read stories with religious themes. Not because I was prejudiced against them. On the contrary, I tried a few when I was a teen, and they seemed too ‘‘preachy’’ for me.
So because I had bad experiences with those, I thought the theme was just, well, not for me. Little did I know, not all books exploring similar themes and topics read the same way and include the same content.
In this case, for instance, while Essie’s family is religious – clearly, her father being a Father and all – and she herself believes in the word of God, she doesn’t spend 320 pages trying to convert us. That’s not what this book is about.
Religion has its role, because Essie’s pregnancy affects her Mother (and her, duh), who then orchestrates a fake marriage so they can play off the pregnancy as a post-marriage gift or something of the like and save face on their reality TV show that follows their every move.
But this is a book for everyone, religious or not. Because it’s important we talk about abuse and empower women to take a stand against it.
For a bit, I thought I would be disappointed by this book, seeing that I was afraid it would go in a completely different direction than I expected (if you’ve read the book, you know exactly what I’m referring to), but the author managed to please me with her clever tactics and wonderful storytelling skills. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat!
We have three 1st person POVs – Essie’s (of course), Liberty’s (a reporter) and Roarke’s (the husband prospect). Essie and Liberty’s narration pieces were very interesting and truly added to the story. Roarke’s chapters, however, made me yawn. There is stuff going on in his life and he does have a secret, but this is not his story. It’s Essie’s and Liberty’s. Their backgrounds intertwine in a curious way, whereas Roarke’s is quite limited and his secret easy to guess. He spends a lot of time thinking about what other people are thinking and doing and giving his opinion. But not doing much himself.
This brings me to my second point: this could have been shorter, certainly, if Roarke’s chapters were removed or limited to one or two.
That being said, this was well-written, smart, important and the ending satisfying. It took me longer to read than I wanted to, since I got distracted watching The Girls Next Door haha, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.
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