All her life, every move that 17-year-old Essie Hicks has made has been carefully orchestrated by her mom and the production team of Six for Hicks, her family’s hit reality TV show. The show chronicles the lives of the extremely religious Hickses, broadcasting the day each child was born, the time the family spends in church where Mr. Hicks is the pastor, and more. When Essie’s mother finds out that Essie is pregnant, she decides that the best solution is for Essie to be married. Little does she know that Essie has other ideas. With the help of Roarke Richards, the senior at her school whom she has decided to marry, and Liberty Bell, a reporter who was part of a conservative cult as a child, Essie plans to free herself from the control of her family and the other circumstances of her life.
I enjoyed reading this book and found myself always wanting to know what Essie’s next move was going to be. The story is told from three perspectives: Essie’s, Roarke’s, and Liberty’s. What I found most compelling was Liberty’s perspective and how her past adds another dimension to the story. Liberty was once in a radically conservative cult, when she wrote a book about her then extremely racist, homophobic views. She eventually left that cult and changed her viewpoint. As someone who knows what it’s like to be scrutinized by the public and leave her family for good, Liberty is the adult perspective in this book. The perspective she adds to Essie’s plan is what I found most intriguing about Liberty.
Furthermore, this book explores fame, gender and family dynamics over a very interesting, contemporary backdrop. For me, the situation of Essie being a child star in a TV show she did not ask to be part of brings up ethical issues about children and show business. The book made me think about how public scrutiny can shape the lives of stars on screen, and ponder on how the way people present themselves on screen is often not a true testament to who they are.
The reason I didn’t give the book a higher rating was that I felt that some issues the book touches upon could be explored or portrayed in more nuanced way. Additionally, while the readers witness growth in the three main characters, they sometimes feel a little flat. I felt like the book could have gone even deeper into exploring each character’s thoughts and feelings. Nonetheless, I thought that the book was a worthwhile read.
An interesting, at times suspenseful narrative.