Thursday, August 16, 2018

Finding Your Voice: A Review of The Book of Essie [Contributor: Megan Mann]

I watch a lot of TV. Most people can say that, but really, I watch a lot of TV and I would say almost half of it is reality television. (I once told my cable provider that the package wouldn't do unless it involved Bravo.) So when it comes to the books that I read, I try to keep reality TV out of the binding as much as possible.

And then I made an exception for The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir.

The book follows Esther Hicks — Essie, for short — who is a member of the Six for Hicks reality show that has been airing since before she was born. Her father is a famous preacher and her mother is the quintessential matriarch. She's polished and fraudulent in ways that only those behind the scenes can understand. But Essie has a secret: she's pregnant, and she needs to figure out how to work the situation to get exactly what she wants.

What follows is a story that is constantly surprising you and leaving you guessing about what's going to happen next. It twists and turns and has multiple points of view in order to give you a full picture of what's really happening.

In short, what you think is not what's really true.

I absolutely loved The Book of Essie. I thought it was truly spectacular in how it frequently threw me for a loop and was never boring. I definitely did not find the plot to be dry. While there are times that the pacing is a bit more intentional and slow, it didn't ever feel like it was stalled. In that sense, the book's pace was perfect, drawing you in and making you want to know what was going to happen next.

Generally speaking, I can usually figure out what's going to happen in a book, plot-wise, or what the big reveal is going to be. But with The Book of Essie, I had no idea what was going to happen as the story unfolded. What the author does is give you, the reader, the basics and never really elaborates on  certain elements so that when the reveal comes, you're shocked and blown away. It's fantastic.

Another thing that's really great about this book is how it takes the idea of reality television and flips it on its head. It breaks down the barrier created between the editing room and our screens. And it demonstrates the idea that while we're getting reality from a "reality show," it's only a version of reality. It's not a whole picture, though it's usually enough to give us an idea of who those people are. When you look behind the camera into what's really going on, you realize how easy it is to create a facade and become an image — a brand. It tarnishes the idea of honesty and I loved that about this book. It's that facade that allows the events of this story to take place.

The Book of Essie is a story about finding your voice and standing up for yourself, even when the consequences might be devastating. It's about getting away from a situation that no longer benefits you and finding peace and happiness. It's a story about a girl who is ready to break free of the facade that has held her captive for her whole life.

The Book of Essie is a fantastic read and one you should pick up today!


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