The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

The Book of Essie

Meghan MacLean Weir

Essie is the youngest child of an evangelical preacher on a reality television show. When she finds out she's pregnant, she begins asking questions about her life and family.

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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?

Advance Galley Reviews

I LOVED this book. I loved the characters - Essie and Roarke and Libby were a delight to spend time with and get to know. And that's really what I felt I was doing over the course of the book. Some of the subject matter was difficult, but the quiet strength and determination of the main characters offered inspiration. A really lovely story, and I hope to read and see more from this author in the future.

This was a pretty good book. Weir did a good job using the three different narrators effectively. Instead of giving their points of view of the same events, they helped continue the story from their point of view. The characters were developed very well, and had interesting and complex backgrounds. My only issue was that the ending felt like it was rushed. We had an entire novel to build everything up, but then it just kind of ended.

I really enjoyed this book. The three different perspectives kept it interesting. Had a lot of great insight into hot button topics. Would highly recommend.

I was impressed with this debut novel from Weir. It offers a penetrating look at a glitzy pastor and his family featured on a popular TV reality show. They look all put together in front of the cameras but there are devastating secrets being hidden. Being a Christian, I was concerned how Weir would handle this topic. I think she did a fine job and I appreciate how she handled all the issues. Essie, the youngest in the pastor's family, is pregnant at seventeen. Similar to what I remember as a teen, no Christian family would want such news to be made public so a quick marriage is arranged. We know that something about the circumstances are odd because Essie does not have a boyfriend. She does have a future husband picked out. And that is only part of her plan. The novel progresses through the personal viewpoints of three characters: Essie, Roarke, Essie's soon to be husband, and Libby, a television reporter Essie trusts. I had to remind myself at times from which viewpoint the action was being seen. But generally that technique worked out well. Libby's viewpoint was a good addition as she had lived through experiences that gave her insight into Essie's problem. I do recommend this novel to readers who appreciate a plot that rips the covering off of family secrets. I like Weir's writing style and will be looking for more from her. My rating: 4/5 stars. I received a complimentary advanced digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. #PRHpartner

I found this to be a very interesting read. I feel it really handled the elements of this story very well. The characters of Essie and Roarke rang very true to me. The story was fast-moving and the ending completely surprised me. Great book from a new author!

I am always fascinated by books that center on cults or cult-culture and THE BOOK OF ESSIE, with the added element of reality tv, made it that much more interesting for me. I loved the relationship between Roarke and Essie and I was completely satisfied with the ending. 3.75 / 5

Honey Boo Boo, the Bates, Little People Big World, the chance to spy into a family a bit more average than the Kardashians has been available to us for well more than a decade now. More progressive than the Duggars, but less contentious than the Gosselins; The Book of Essie approaches the TV fundamentalist reality family in a bit of new way. The older Hicks kids have flown the coop—Caleb is planning a run for senate, but why has no one seen Lissa since she left for college years ago? Unbeknownst to Mama Hicks, her remaining child at home Esther Anne, "Essie", is planning the final take down of the duplicitous money-making machine that is "Six for Hicks." Essie enlists journalist with a past Liberty "Libby" Bell and high school baseball player Roarke Richards to aid in her own scheme—a sham marriage. Layers of lessons to look for in this one, kids! How we gawk at "reality" while we ignore reality. The times we feel the end justifies the means and when we don't. The appropriateness of pulling the wool over the eyes of some to pull the mask off of others. I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately, so I found myself longing for vengeance of the many misdeeds against our heroine Essie over the course of her seventeen years. In the end I feel Weir handled it well, playing out an even hand against the wrong-doers without turning this into a book of bloodthirsty social justice. A solid 4 stars, a solid debut from a new voice in fiction!

I liked this book. It looks critically at reality tv as well as extreme evangelicals. The author does a good job of including current scandals, but with a slight twist so you can't say that she is directly criticizing one particular famous family. My only criticism is that I had a hard time believing one reality tv show could last that many years. The rest of the plot was fairly plausible, though. The author does a good job of keeping the reader interested first by trying to figure out who the father is and then trying to figure out what she is going to do about it. I enjoyed it.

Wow this was a great read! It was slightly predictable, but the ending itself wasn’t what I saw coming.

Written with an earnest, realistic first person point-of-view, The Book of Essie might be of greater interest to those looking for a young or new adult genre title rather than the compelling contemporary adult fiction novel it is purported to be. While the plotline is interesting enough, it just didn't begin to appeal to me as much as other First To Read selections I've been fortunate enough to read. Slow moving overall, the otherwise talented author makes the mistake of opening with too much judgemental exposition that holds us at an arm's length and prevents us from really getting drawn into the story. And despite a change in point-of-view, the narrative style felt to similar. While still readable, unfortunately it is a book that goes to my back burner vs. other titles in my rotation.

What an interesting book! I'm not sure what my original curiosities were about it, but the book was not what I was expecting. It had an interesting sequence of events, some I didn't expect and some I hoped turned out different than they did. Essie is a likable character, who after basically being forced to say this or do that or conform with this for the show, pulls the strings to make her unexpected pregnancy play out the way Essie wants. The book is written from three different perspectives: Essie, Roarke: the man she's to marry and Libby, the reporter covering the nuptials. While we learn a ton about Essie and her family, we don't dive as deep into Libby and Roarke's stories. They seem to be interesting characters. We get a glimpse of a Tragedy in Libby's life, and once we find out how the character died, they don't really go further to say who dun did it, or the unveiling of the event, which I don't suppose is super important to Essie's storyline, but I'm of the philosophy: If you bring it up, flush it out. Roarke is a likable character and I think I would have liked to have gotten to know him a bit better. All in all though, a well written book. Easy read. Addresses some concerns sects of Christianity may be hiding, some hypocrisy perhaps, but not all Christians are like this, nor is it anywhere accurate as to how the body of Christ is or should behave.

I was not sure what to expect with this book and was pleasantly surprised. Essie was a damaged girl that had been living a tragic life in front of the camera on her parent's tv show. She finds out she is pregnant and must marry, however she uses this to make a choice for herself. There is a lot of current subject matter in this book that was definitely worth exploring. There were parts that made me feel so terrible for this girl that was fed to the wolves by her parents.

I appreciated receiving a free digital copy of The Book of Essie by Meghan Mclean Weir for my honest review. I had a hard time getting interested in this story. I kept reading this book because I was curious to see if there would be a sudden twist of excitement that I wasn't expecting. Unfortunately, that never happened. The story deals with several different issues that several characters are separately dealing with. It was too much. I couldn't bring myself to root for any of them. Two of the main characters, Roarke and Essie, are in high school but rarely act like it. Their reactions to situations and people are more mature than expected. At one point there is an excerpt of a portion of Essie diary that she wrote when she was 16 and nothing about it sounds like a 16-year-old. When the characters don't seem real, it takes me out of the story. Unfortunately, I was constantly being taken out of this story. So much of the plot and the characters' reactions were implausible. Characters quickly accepted situations and outcomes that in real life people would struggle and be agonizing over. I wanted to see the characters wrestle more internally with their situations. There were several descriptive paragraphs that I skimmed over because they seemed unnecessary and were dragging down the pace of the story. The chapters jump from the point of view of three main characters, Esther, Roarke, and Liberty, which left the book feeling chopped up and disjointed. On a positive note, this book was quick and easy to read. I would have abandoned this story if I wasn't curious enough to see what happened.

I really enjoyed this book. The differing voices were each unique but realistic. The subject matter was treated with dignity and not overwrought.

I read this book in about 24 hours - it was totally gripping, with compelling characters, a complex plot, and very relevant to US current events. The chapters rotate through three narrators: Essie, Roarke, and Liberty. Each has their own distinct voice and unique story to tell, and adds so much to the overarching tale. The personal and moral quandaries in this book ring strong and true, as do the back stories that slowly get revealed. I loved this book, even as it felt predictable at times, and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

This book involved a lot of the moral/social issues that we are dealing with in society now, such as homosexuality, the #MeToo movement, and reality TV shows. I wasn't sure that I would like it when I read the description, but I thought I would take a chance with it and I'm glad I did! The book alternates, chapter by chapter, in 3 voices. There is Essie, who is the daughter of the reality show father, who happens to be a priest of some kind. There is Libby, who is a writer/journalist who escaped her own cult situation as a child. Finally there is Roarke, who is chosen to be Essie's husband. To say much more about the plot would be a spoiler. I do recommend this book to anyone who loves to read.

I was looking over reviews on Goodreads and quite surprised that people were upset over the portrayal of religion in this book, and I don't feel that it was a portrayal of religion, rather the portrayal of Essie's experience in her family, with their particular church. Written in alternating points of view from Essie, her fiance, and the woman who is helping Essie to tell the story, The Book of Essie is extremely well-written while touching on some very sensitive topics. Growing up on television, Essie knows there is a right way to act. Her mother pulls all the strings in the family and disobedience isn't an option. Until Essie learns she's pregnant and something needs to be done about it to minimize media exposure. I absolutely loved that underneath the sweet obedience, was a girl fighting to make herself heard, pulling her own strings. She sets in motion the future she envisions for herself while unraveling the web so carefully weaved by her mother and family. I liked that the author touched on some very serious subjects while putting them in a way that is relevant to society today.

I tend to stay away from books dealing with religion; however, there was something about The Book of Essie that intrigued me. I wanted to know more about Essie. I wanted to know more about her family's reality show as well as the many secrets hidden behind the scenes of the show. As it turns out, The Book of Essie was an engrossing, interesting read. I easily finished it in one day, but there were several times where I felt more plot/character development was needed. The Book of Essie contains three POVs: Essie's, Roarke's, and Liberty-Bell's. The good? I found them easy to like. While Roarke was my favorite out of the three, I still admired Essie's determination and willingness to make things right as well as Liberty-Bell's urge to give Essie a chance and help someone similar to her former self. They were all strong, caring characters, and while each of them experienced their respective shortcomings, it easy easy to see that there were good people. The bad? Even though three POVS are featured, I felt that Essie's over shined the other two in development. Honestly, sometimes I didn't understand why three POVs were used, because at the end of the day, Essie's was the focal point. While Liberty-Bell and Roarke deal with their own issues and problems, they always felt more like an "assistant" to Essie rather than their own person, and that bothered me, because I wanted to know more about Roarke and Liberty-Bell. I wanted to know more about Roarke's childhood, more about his relationship with his family, more about how being shipped away changed him as a person. I wanted to know more about Liberty-Bell's past. Yes, we know that she was part of an religious cult; however, it never dug deeper. I felt that their stories were important as well, and honestly I felt jibbed when it came to their narratives. Even at the end, Liberty-Bell and Roarke were sort of thrown to the side, Essie only mentioning little things about where each had ended up. The plot of The Book of Essie relies heavily on the dramatics. There were so many times where I couldn't believe what I was reading. Essie's family was truly horrible, and while I wanted to be able to see some good in them, it was incredibly hard to do. It's horrible to see just how much people will put aside and ignore for the sake of money. The plot primarily focuses on Essie's upcoming nuptials, used as a cover for her pregnancy, and Essie's plans to bring her family's empire down once and for all. As mentioned before, I thought it was an interesting storyline, and I did feel that Meghan did a decent job exploring tough issues within in (teen pregnancy, religion, sexual assault, etc.). However, once again, I felt that there could have been more here. Everything moved very fast, and while I loved a fast paced book, I don't love it when it sacrifices development for the sake of speed. There were several times I wish Meghan would've slowed down - the wedding, the big revel/takedown, Essie's discovery of her sister, etc. - or cut down the number of events to develop the remaining ones. I also didn't feel that the ending was particularly believable. Yes, it made me happy, but there was also a voice in my head saying "But would it really be that easy?" Overall, The Book of Essie is a enjoyable read based on the dramatics and the reality TV like feel; however, the lack of development and even focuses brought down my enjoyment considerably. It left me wanting more, and not in a "I can't get enough" kind of way, but in a "wait, what just happened?" way.

I really enjoyed reading this book that tells the story of Essie, the daughter of famous reality TV show religious family. Essie is pregnant and a plan is set into action. The story line was so interesting to me, especially in the context of TV shows that are popular today. Once I started it I was hooked. I loved the characters, and I couldn't help but root for Essie. It was definitely a book I didn't want to put down, but I did find it fairly predictable.

This is a very entertaining book with vivid characters and situations, despite a bit of sensationalism and overly convenient happenings. Essie engineers her escape from her overexamined life as a reality TV star as part of a preacher's large family. Although she probably had a narrow upbringing, she clearly learned from her mother, a master manipulator who built the empire and created a facade of the perfect family. This is a great examination of the flaws underneath that facade, and how they and the desperation and like-mindedness of key allies could bring the whole thing to a head, leveraging the massive financials of media exploitation to enable an escape. The interactions between Essie and Roarke are excellent as they evolve over time, and as Roarke makes the situation is own. The parallels to Liberty's cult upbringing give a strong perspective, and we really feel the stakes of some of the choices, even as we wish for more moderate solutions.

Essie's story is both sad and compelling. I liked the backdrop that she is part of this famous family due to their reality TV show because it sets the stakes high. Adding in the family's strong religious beliefs and Essie's pregnancy out of wedlock sucked me in. The writing is really good because it made me feel creeped out as more of the situation is revealed while keeping me hooked and wanting to continue reading. The layout of the story works well. It is told from three points of view that allow the reader to get to know these characters better. This seemed to build connections between the characters in a way that reading the book solely from Essie's perspective would have lacked. The way the characters grow over the course of the story felt natural. The supporting characters can feel a little flat at times though. The book felt a little rushed at the end. Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it for anyone that likes books that tackle difficult subject matter.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the characters to be likable overall and the story kept getting more and more interesting as it went along. I liked the interplay between the Essie, the main character, Libby, the journalist chosen by Essie to write her story, and Roarke, Essie’s boyfriend. Libby and Roarke had their own interesting histories that played into what was currently happening in the story. I would recommend reading this book.

Esther Hicks is the youngest daughter of a highly popular televised evangelist. Most of her life has been publicized as part of the "Six for Hicks" reality show in which her father preaches fire and brimstone for sinners. When Essie becomes pregnant, her mother Celia works with the producers to find a solution that will both boost the show’s ratings and hide the pregnancy from viewers. A plan for a prompt marriage is arranged, the only problem is Essie has never dated and they need to sell a love story. What Celia doesn't know is that Essie is pulling the strings on this story and she already has a boy in mind. Roarke Richards is a top athlete and senior at Essie's school. He has been accepted to Columbia but his parent’s financial debt will not allow him to go. Just like Essie Roarke has a secret and Essie has a plan. The plan involves trusting infamous reporter Liberty Bell, a childhood victim of a cult standoff gone wrong. I really enjoyed this novel but it is a slow paced narrative about a young girl who is trying to take control of her life. The story centers around Essie and those individuals she entrusts to help her escape her family. There is a lot of depth to the plot and the characters which has to be revealed in a way that helps the reader understand the characters motives. This book discusses some intense topics, mainly incest, which are necessary for understanding the characters motives. I think the author did a wonderful job at implementing these topics in a way that wasn't graphic but still provided an impact to the plot. I would recommend this novel to readers who are looking for something that is more of a slow paced but intense read.

This sucked me in. The premise was interesting and why I wanted to read the book, but the characters were the reason I kept reading. Told in three POVs, each character was compelling and I wanted to know more about each and also how they would collectively resolve everything. Essie, Roarke, and Libby all have secrets and have all been hurt personally by some brand of conservative evangelical Christianity. This book was the journey of them breaking free and escaping. While the plot was obviously inspired by the Duggars, it still felt fresh. I loved this book. It was compelling and unsettling, and my mind is still reeling from it.

The premise of this book was unique to me and drew me in to wanting to read it, especially because it was the debut novel of Meghan MacLean Weir. I really enjoyed Essie's tenacity and her drive to start living her life on her own terms. I also liked Lissa quite a bit and wish she had been in the book a bit more. She seemed to be the most down to earth and honest person within the family. I really enjoyed the first portion of the book as you got to know Essie and get to see firsthand how she is treated within the family, but it started to become a bit cumbersome as most of the details were too involved and it didn't get to the "meat" of the story until the last portion of the book. The ending was wonderful until a certain point... I felt the story was a bit too Duggars-esque in most places which took away from the story and made it feel as though the author was poking fun at that family, which some people might enjoy! However, the ending felt very abrupt as though it was cut short and the author was beyond her deadline. I would have definitely loved to hear more after the ending! I wish there had been more... Thank you First Reads for giving me a copy for review!

I love reading books about characters who have different religious beliefs than my own, which is why I chose to read about this evangelical family. While the subject matter has a ripped from the headlines feel, the writing makes the characters feel fresh, new, and genuine.

OMG what a book! A must read for everyone. Just when you think you know what is happening there is a new twist. Action packed read in one sitting book. Hard to put down!!! Highly recommended!!!

I absolutely loved this book, but talk about hot button issues! I’m trying to think of one the book didn’t mention. Essie is the youngest daughter of a famous evangelical family. Her whole life has been on tv and in front of the cameras . Her father is a charismatic pastor of a mega church, but it is her Mother that runs the show. Things like morals and honesty do not really enter the picture. Essie has grown brothers with families of their own and an older sister that went to college and has never returned. She has managed to escape the limelight and stays off camera. Essie really misses her and also wonders how she has not been coerced back into the fold of the family. This book has more twists and turns than a corkscrew, it is hypocrisy at its finest! The beginning of the story opens with her Mother meeting with her trusted assistants because Essie is pregnant at 17. How should it be handled to further the shows ratings, Essie isn’t even allowed into the meeting. This is the first glimpse at how things operate within Essie’s family. This is just one topic that appears, there are so may many more This is a great read but I can see it’s not for everyone.Many thanks to first to read for my ARC of. The Book of Essie. I loved it and I think there will be hordes of others that love it too!

Even though the subject matter is quite disturbing, this book was very good. I did not like the way people were used in this book. The majority seemed to have an agenda that was all about money. I found Lissa to be the most honest character. Although Libby’s story was compelling, it almost seemed like a separate book.

I really liked this book, but I can absolutely understand why people might have a problem with it. The subject matter is very hot-button on so many levels: It critiques the hypocrisy of religion and the unreality of reality television, while simultaneously exploring the topics of incest, rape, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, and cults. Esther Anne ("Essie") Hicks is the youngest daughter on the reality TV series "Six for Hicks," about a preacher, his wife, and their six kids. When Essie turns up pregnant at 17, she orchestrates a televised marriage between herself a classmate, Roarke, whose family is a bit down on its luck and needs money to save its business and home, not to mention money for Roarke's Columbia tuition. Essie convinces Roarke to go along with her facade and uses reporter Liberty Bell to further their farce. Liberty Bell's extremely religious family once belonged to a (you guessed it) cult, and her sister Justice died in the final standoff between the cult's "leader" and the police. It takes college and a boy, Mike, to show Liberty just how brainwashed she was and to break from them. In Essie, Liberty sees a chance to make up for not being able to protect her sister by helping Essie blow the lid on her family's big bad secret. It was a compelling read right out of the gate for me, and held tightly to my interest all the way till the end, with an inevitable but no less victorious climax.

Seventeen year old Essie Hicks has grown up in front of the camera. Her religious family are the stars of the hit reality program, Six for Hicks. Essie's mother, Celia, is mortified when she finds out Essie is pregnant but she comes up with a plan so the rest of the world won't find out the awful truth. Essie though has a plan of her own and she is going to enlist the help of Roarke, a boy at school who won't give her the time of day, and Liberty, a reporter who knows what it's like to live your life in the spotlight. But what price is Essie willing to pay for her freedom? Imagine if one of the Duggar girls attempted to break free from her family, that's pretty much what this book is like. I absolutely loved watching Essie try to outsmart everyone in order to try and lead a more normal life. Sure, there are parts of the story that might not be entirely realistic but it really was a good read with characters that were easy to root for. I didn't particularly care for most of Liberty's story line but it did help tie in everything together. Definitely recommend especially if you like to watch family based reality television shows as it gives a behind the scenes type glimpse into how these shows are produced. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

Oh my gosh. I got this book the first morning it became available and stayed up way too late to finish reading it because I HAD to know what happened! The character interactions were so complex, each person completing another piece of the puzzle, without spoiling the end, slowly building to the climactic end. With the varying points of view (which were super easy to follow along) and the on-camera vs off-camera personas, the book has the vibe of a behind-the-scenes look at an actual reality TV show. And I just adored Essie. I thought she was incredibly brave to make such bold decisions at such a young age. And Roarke really was a prince of a friend to her, through thick and thin. And without giving away spoilers, I must say that I am pleased at how things turned out. I'm a big fan of endings that play out realistically for the characters instead of forcing them into a mold. These characters broke molds time and again. This book was awesome, and I am so looking forward to reading more by this author.


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