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Quick take

When the teenage star of a Christian reality TV show gets pregnant, will it blow up her life, or just her ratings?

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    Fast read

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    Family drama

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    LGBTQ+ themes

Troian Bellisario is an actress who starred in the hit TV series Pretty Little Liars

Why I love it

Alright, confession time: I am NOT a fan of reality television. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. So when I began reading The Book of Essie, a story about a 17-year-old woman who’s spent her whole life on a reality TV show, I was worried to say the least. Worried, that is, until I realized that this surprisingly gritty girl was actually planning to blow up the show (and her family’s image) from the inside, and she had just the plan to do it.

Essie is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a nationally beloved and carefully orchestrated “reality” TV sensation. Her father, an Evangelical pastor, leads a congregation of thousands while her mother—who plays the devout and demure wife on camera—masterminds the public unfolding of his, Essie’s, and the rest of the brood’s every move with Lady Macbethian machinations. The family facade only threatens to crumble when Essie reveals to her family that she’s pregnant … a secret that will ruin their righteous reputation. Not surprisingly, her mother has a PR plan. But—for the first time ever—Essie, too, has her own ideas about what to tell the public, and how.

Watching Essie escape the prison that has been her whole life is breathtaking. Though raised to breathe lies and perform on a dime, her fearlessness, cunning, and authenticity had me cheering through each chapter. It doesn’t matter if you like reality TV or not, The Book of Essie is an explosive, plot-twisting, gut-punch of a novel that will keep you turning the pages and never wanting to change the channel.

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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?
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    June 2018
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