*TRIGGER WARNINGS* This book covers topics including rape, abuse, and homophobia.
I was intrigued by the plot of The Book of Essie. A seventeen year old girl named Esther Hicks discovers she’s pregnant, but she’s no ordinary teen. Her family is famous and has their own TV show called Six for Hicks, which is incredibly popular (especially with the religious audience). Her family decides the best thing to do is to marry off Essie so it doesn’t look like an unwed mother… and also to make a ton of money off of the televised ceremony. Esther, on the other hands, may have other motivations…
I adored the character of Esther, or “Essie” as he prefers, and loved her determined personality. Her arranged fiance Roarke is a fantastic male character, and his honor and loyalty to Essie is incredibly admirable. I also adored Liberty Bell, a reporter whom Essie tasks with interviewing her and Roarke. The rest of the characters felt somewhat throw-away and one dimensional.
I felt the first half of this book dragged and it didn’t really hook me until I reached about page two hundred. After that, the plot started moving so quickly that the ending felt abrupt and unsatisfying. I wish the second half would have been more slowly paced and allowed to grow and become more fleshed out. Also, the flashbacks didn’t feel like they were properly placed, in my personal opinion.
This is an admirable debut novel that had the potential to be so much more, but ultimately left me unsatisfied and wanting more meat added the narrative. The main characters are strong and the way tough subjects are handled with grace is fantastic, but the pacing and the depiction of the secondary characters derailed the The Book of Essie for me.