The youngest daughter of an Evangelical preacher–turned–reality TV star hatches a plan to wrangle her freedom—and expose the dark truth about her family—in Weir’s (Between Expectations, 2011) debut novel.
Esther Anne Hicks has spent her entire life in front of cameras: Six for Hicks is a Duggar-like American phenomenon, documenting the shiny, wholesome life of her parents and five siblings. So when Essie’s ruthlessly calculating mother finds out her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, it’s a matter to be discussed with the production office. She could abort, suggests production, or spend her pregnancy hiding out, off camera, in a villa on St. John and then give the baby up for adoption, although both of those are risky—there's always the possibility of someone finding out. The other option is marriage: They could stage a wedding, fast. And though she has no formal say in the matter, Essie has a candidate in mind: Roarke Richards, a senior at her high school and the only boy she knows who needs a way out as much as she does. With a wedding on the books, Essie enlists reporter Liberty Bell—who, in a previous life, was a high-profile hyperconservative teen blogger and who has family secrets of her own—to help sell their love story to America. And then, after the wedding, to help her seize the narrative and tell the real truth about her family. The question is: What cost is she willing to pay to tell it? The novel alternates between the perspectives of its three protagonists, though Essie, Roarke, and Liberty—while all deeply sympathetic—sound pretty much the same. But if the characters never quite have all the depth you might hope for, the well-paced plot is enough to keep the pages turning, and the unexpected tenderness between Essie and Roarke gives the novel genuine emotional punch.
Sensitive if not particularly subtle.