"The Book of Essie" by Meghan Maclean Weir; Alfred A. Knopf (336 pages, $25.95)
At 17, Essie Hicks has lived her whole life on camera, via her family's reality TV show "Six for Hicks." Well, not her whole life, because Essie has an explosive secret. She's pregnant.
If she were a Kardashian, that might not be a problem, but the Hicks family has built their celebrity on their strict religious beliefs. Big problem.
"The Book of Essie" chronicles the pivotal months during which Essie's family works out how to deal with her pregnancy without jeopardizing their hit show and the lavish lifestyle it funds.
"It paid for the car seat I rode home in from the hospital. ... It paid for my first backpack when it came time for me to go to school," Essie recalls. "The show paid for everything. And now it would pay for a solution to my 'problem.'?"
Essie finds herself given a rare chance to decide her fate – but at what cost?
Debut novelist Meghan Maclean Weir delivers a page-turning tale informed by her background as a preacher's daughter. She divides the story among three young narrators: Essie, her potential groom, and a journalist covering the show. It's a good device, but Weir struggles to create three distinct voices. Readers also may flinch at her occasional swipes at evangelical churches and the fictional show's resemblance to the real-life "19 Kids and Counting."
Even so, the story's fast pace and plot twists will hold readers until Essie's episode comes to its dramatic end.